A convicted and now remorseful pedophile explains how he selected his victims, earned their parents’ confidence, and then manipulated the youngsters’ emotions to gain control over them.
In the late 1980s, Hammel-Zabin, a music therapist working inside a maximum-security prison, came to know the pedophile identified here only as “Alan.” Then in his late 50s, Alan was serving multiple life sentences for the sexual abuse of young boys. Hammel-Zabin had been sexually abused as a child by her father and grandfather, leading her to reflect the points of view of both perpetrator and victim. Chapters labeled “Alan” contain material gleaned from some ten years of his correspondence and conversations with the author; those labeled “Amy” contain her reflections on his words as well as her own incest story, which regrettably adds little to our understanding of that phenomenon. The text’s most compelling and disturbing portions by far are Alan’s descriptions of his development as a pedophile and of his methods. The fantasies that engaged him from a very early age gradually escalated into obsessions that he acted out. At 14, he used the Boy Scouts as a way to hang around 10- and 11-year-olds without arousing suspicion, and as an adult he involved himself in church activities and scouting as a safe cover for his activities. He describes how he became his victims’ confidante and how he ensured that they would not tell on him, even when the abuse reached horrendous levels. This is the stuff of parents’ nightmares, but Hammel-Zabin argues that only by understanding pedophilia can we protect children from it. The final chapters discuss what parents can do to ensure that their children do not become vulnerable to those who would prey on them. The more difficult question of what can be done about the predators remains unanswered here.
The veracity of these revelations must be taken on faith, but, still, they have the ring of very scary truth.