Chosen

Originally posted on December 16, 2008

I saw a post about the film Chosen on MaleSurvivor. It is a documentary directed by Brian Woods. From the site:

Chosen is testament to the power of a compelling story, simply told. The film deals with a subject often whispered but rarely spoken about – the sexual abuse of boys by teachers in Britain’s private schools.

For thirty years the boys, and the men they became, stayed silent, nursing the dark secret of the abuse they suffered. But in this film, Tom, Mark and Alastair break that silence with spellbinding articulacy and breathtaking honesty – telling their stories straight to camera.

Standing apart from more tabloid models of talking about paedophilia, this film is sensitively told, allowing the men to talk directly about their experiences and the effect it has had on the rest of their lives.

Chosen reveals how these boys were groomed, how the private school system is poorly regulated, how abuse goes undetected, and why we need to listen.

Pardon any oddness of speech. I just finished watching the film and I am still disconnected. I found the film quite raw. The men shared their stories with an amount of detail one normally does not hear from victims. Tom, Mark and Alistair show how deeply and how emotionally sexual abuse effects a person. Few people realize just how some sexual predators operate. We have in our mind the lustful predator, the person who snatches a child, rapes and kills the child. We have in our mind men like Michael Devlin or eccentric figures like Michael Jackson.

However, the people who prey on child often are quite normal and quite liked. They choose their victims carefully, spend months winning the child over, building his confidence, earning his trust, affection and even love. That is what makes the violation so unthinkable.

The moments that stood out for me was Tom’s recounting of his first assault. His abuser asked him to come to his room and the way Tom phrases it is that he “chose to get in the bed.” He uses the term complicit and throughout his recounting I kept thinking about the way I view my experiences. Complicit is the word I would use. Willing, consensual, deserved. What does it mean that I went along with it? What does it mean that I initiated it? What does it mean that sometimes I enjoyed it? Hearing those words come out of someone else’s mouth showed me to some extent how incorrect my view of what happened may be.

Another moment was Alistair describing how baffled he was by the court’s decision to give his abuser a two year sentence, of which the abuse served twelve months. He reads the judge’s statement before sentencing and it is astounding. The judge considers the abuser’s age and his “good character”. This is a man who plead guilty to raping a then 11-year-old boy decades ago, and having been fired from that teaching job the man sought another, one where he was later arrested. Yet, the judge cited this man’s character as reason for a lighter sentence. The judge even acknowledges that this abuser was not even remorseful for what he had done, that he did not care about the emotions of the boys he hurt, and still he gave this man a light sentence.

Perhaps the moment that stood out the most was Mark describing his sense of betrayal when he found out that his abuser was abusing other boys as well. He says that he had given himself to his man, so to have that special relationship, that intimate promise betrayed was too much. I think that is a testament to how complete the control an abuser can have over a child.

While none of the men mention being abused by women, a lot of what they describe is applicable. They liked the men who abused them, trusted them, believed these men were genuinely interested in them. Much of the grooming the describe is no different than the dozens of cases one hears about female child rapists. It shows that even seemingly “harmless” acts like fondling and oral sex can have lasting traumatic impacts on the victims.

If anyone wishes to, they can watch the film online. Fair warning, it is quite triggering, particularly about fifteen to twenty minutes in. The site is also accepting donations in order to make future films about this topic.

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