March 15, 2007
Replays from “To Catch a Predator” are everywhere on the news today, no doubt due to the fact that its creator, Chris Hanson, launched his book,To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home, this week.
Does his sting operation deter child predators?
My professional experience would lead me to say “no.” I’ve worked extensively in my private practice with both victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Perpetrators often feel a compelling urge to engage in this activity, for reasons they can’t fathom. Fear of being caught simply isn’t a strong enough deterrent. The sad fact is that almost inevitably perpetrators were similarly abused themselves, but have no memory of it, and, unconsciously, they feel compelled to recreate it.
The solution is openness and education: our society needs to be able to address it frankly. It is still not acceptable conversation in most circles. All of us, and especially parents and children, need to be able to discuss it freely. Children need to know that the most likely predator is a family member. The more light that is brought to the subject, the more it is removed from darkness, the faster we can eliminate this tendency from our cellular memory, from our collective unconscious.
Worse,To Catch a Predator teaches values that are dead wrong: we are encouraged to enjoy watching the entrapment of human beings, wrong as their actions are. The creator seems to take particular pleasure in watching his quarry squirm, which teaches us all to tolerate, even enjoy, the pain and agony of others.
The logical next step has already occurred: it is being reproduced and parodied on YouTube.
Any good that is accomplished by To Catch a Predator is overshadowed by its tendency to make the perpetrator more desperate and drive his/her activities more deeply underground and make the rest of us numb to the afflictions of others.make the perpetrator more desperate and drive his/her activities more deeply underground and make the rest of us numb to the afflictions of others.