Richard Dawkins clarified his stance regarding the sexual abuse of children in his blog yesterday. Here’s an excerpt of his comments:
Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s? Should I have lied and said it was the worst thing that ever happened to me? Should I have mendaciously sought the sympathy due to a victim who had truly been damaged for the rest of his life? Should I have named the offending teacher and called down posthumous disgrace upon his head?
No, no and no. To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”
That is why I made light of my own bad experience. To excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from my intention.
I’m pleased to hear that Dawkins acknowledges child sexual abuse as a serious problem, and that his motivations in downplaying his own experiences were benign.
However, I still maintain that he missed the point, as I state at length in my post “Dawkins Misses the Point Again“. This is not the first time that Dawkins has used the “it’s no big deal” argument with regard to disrespecting other people’s boundaries. But what happened to Dawkins in his childhood IS a big deal. It’s a big deal because we, as a society, cannot continue to tolerate the violation of the bodies of others. Not in big ways, not in small ways, not even a little bit, not ever.