A Conversation With: John Edward Kurian Jr. 'Citizen X' "What Happens When "You" The Father Is The Child Molester ?
Desirae is 32, Deondra 31, and Melody 27. Each was first molested by their father before the age of 14.
Until just a few years ago, the sisters had never revealed the abuse even to each other. “Pedophiles are so skilled at isolating their victims—making you feel like you are the only one in the world and you can’t talk to anyone about this,” Desirae said in an exclusive interview, the first time the daughters have spoken publicly about their ordeal. She and Deondra met with me in Alpine, Utah, the small city in which they were reared, along with their two brothers, in a close-knit Mormon community. The brothers, Greg and Ryan, were also present, while Melody, although deeply supportive of her sisters, chose not to participate in the interview. Desirae and Deondra said they didn’t want to speak about their mother, Lisa, who is still married to their father. But they were willing and indeed determined to talk about their father, Keith Brown, who is serving a term of 10 years to life in a prison facility just a short drive from where we had arranged to meet. The daughters said they hope their story will reassure other victims of child sexual abuse that they are not alone—and that what happened is not their fault.
“I was worried our family would get torn apart,” Desirae recalled of her adolescent sense of powerlessness and desperation. “Even as a kid, you realize if your parents go to prison you are going to be put in foster care, and I didn’t want to be taken away from my siblings. It all seems so scary, and so it paralyzes you.” “It is a part of you that becomes damaged—you just shove it away into some back closet somewhere and you try to move on with your life,” said Deondra.
Brown was a textbook example of an “opportunistic situational sex offender,” according to Deputy Utah County Attorney Dave Sturgill, who prosecuted the patriarch. “They will go after whomever they think is vulnerable and won’t disclose the abuse,” Sturgill said. “It’s a ‘grooming’ process, where they take the time to see how the kid will respond and in the process become more and more intimate. Sex abuse is a crime of secrecy.”
What are the first three facts you can tell others? Fact one: Today, 95 percent of child molestation can be prevented. We have the knowledge to stop it. Fact two: Today, living in the United States, there are 39 million adults who have survived child sexual abuse. Fact three: Today, more than three million American children are victims. Most of them are children, struggling alone, believing there is no adult who can help them. To help prevent child molestation from happening to the children closest to you, begin by telling others the basic facts.
But why you? Shouldn't stopping sexual abuse be left to professionals - physicians and therapists? Better yet, shouldn't the police and the courts take care of it? Professionals - physicians and therapists - can never put an end to sexual abuse; neither can the police or the courts. Why? Because they come on the scene too late. By the time they get there, the children have already been molested. Only you can get there in time. There's a bigger reason why the professionals and the courts can't put an end to sexual abuse. They have no permission to talk to a child about sex - unless, of course, they talk to the child after the fact, after the child has already been sexually abused or has abused another child. Only you can talk to your children before anything happens, before any damage is done - to anyone.
Not In My Family What if you are certain there has never been a child molester or a molested child in your family? You are probably wrong.
Unfortunately, most of today's children will never tell. They feel ashamed that this has happened to them. They are protecting their abuser because he or she is part of their family. They are protecting other members of their family - saving them from the pain of knowing.
In spite of the millions of victims in our families, many people stick to their mistaken belief that child molestation has nothing to do with them. An estimated one in 20 teenage boys and adult men sexually abuse children, and an estimated one teenage girl or adult woman in every 3,300 females molests children. Although that's well over five million people, most families mistakenly believe that as far as molesters go, there has never been one in their family, and what's more, there never will be. Add together the child victims, the adult survivors, and the abusers, and that's 15 out of every 100 Americans who have been either a molested child or a molester.
To help prevent child molestation from happening to the children closest to you, begin by telling others the basic facts.
We Start By Speaking The Same Language If we're going to work together to stop child sexual abuse, we have to speak the same language. We have to mean the same thing when we say "child molester," "child molestation," and even "child."
Moreover, all of us have to understand the basic facts: What exactly is child molestation? How many of our children are sexually abused? How seriously are they damaged? What are the characteristics of a child molester? What causes someone to sexually abuse a child? Which of our children are most at risk?
A child molester is any older child or adult who touches a child for his or her own sexual gratification. Child molestation is the act of sexually touching a child. A child is a girl or boy who is 13 years of age or younger. What's the age difference between a molester and a child? It is five years, so a 14-year-old "older child" sexually touching a nine-year-old is an example. This is the accepted medical definition.
Sometimes, a professional will consider that a molestation act has occurred when the older child is only three years older - a sixth-grader with a third-grader, for instance. The crucial element here is the lack of equality between the two children; the sixth grader is clearly bigger, more powerful, and more "adult-like" than the third-grader. We avoid definitions that are ambiguous by sticking to the medical definition. We define "child molester" as an adult or child, who is at least five years older than the child he or she has molested.
Telling Others The Facts If we're going to protect our children from sexual abuse, all of us have to understand exactly what we mean by the act of sexual abuse. Why? Because one of the greatest obstacles we face is people's fear of the facts about child molestation. For instance, some people who have no idea that sexual touch is vastly different from hugging are afraid to hug a child - especially one who isn't theirs - because someone might think they are child molesters. You can calm their fears by telling them this fact: Hugging is not molesting. Sexual touch is when an adult fondles the child's chest, buttocks, or genitals with the direct purpose of sexually exciting himself or the child. Can you tell your husband that fact? Can you tell your sister, your cousin, or your best friend? If you can, then you can easily tell others all the rest of the facts.
The less people know, the more anxiety they feel, and the more they want to run away or pretend that today's estimated three million sexually abused children don't exist. Every fact has a calming effect. By telling the people closest to you the facts, you can help those same people become strong adult protectors of the children closest to you. How Many Children Are Sexually Abused? Three million children! I don't believe it. How can you possibly know that there are exactly three million child victims?" As you begin to tell others the facts, this is the first question they may ask you. The answer: Of course, we don't know exactly.
Children seldom tell. Those millions of children are a secret. They are the secret in family after family after family. Even adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse seldom tell. What we do know from studies of adult men and women is that the number is at least three million. At least three million children are molested before they finish their 13th year. In 1998, there were 103,000 reported and confirmed cases of child molestation. For comparison, at the height of the polio epidemic that struck children in the 1950s, there were 21,000 cases reported in a year. For rubella, there were 57,000 cases reported. For child molestation, those numbers of reported and confirmed molestations are only the tip of the iceberg. For every case reported there are at least two and maybe three more cases that never get reported.
That's why we may never know the exact number of child victims. We do know that if we use the conservative estimate that two in every ten little girls and one in every ten little boys are victims (based on the population reported in the 1999 U.S. Census statistical abstract) well over three million children are victims.
Take a moment to think about that. Three million children is a staggering number of children. That's 46 National Football League stadiums packed with children who are, today, being sexually abused, and who believe they have no adult to go to for help.