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Barry Crimmins

words to live near


child abuse

No laughing matter Saturday, September 26, 2009

No laughing matter
Compared to the average humorist, I'm a tad reticent to comment upon sensational cult of personality stories. I feel they're a distraction from what we should be considering. On occasion, however, they involve something truly important.

For instance, actress and singer Mackenzie Phillips' recent disclosures of her childhood horrors certainly brought up issues that we need to discuss: incest and child abuse. They are nervous subjects and they've resulted in a lot of nervous jesting. I've seen a variety of such jokes from friends and colleagues in the humor rackets, mostly via the Facebook social networking site.

When challenged about compounding this sordid mess with salacious comments, some of the skittish quipsters have been quick to blame the victim. After all, hadn't she "admitted" that she had a consensual sexual relationship with her father, the late musician John Phillips, well into her adulthood? Isn't she at least partly culpable? Besides, she's a celebrity so that makes her fair game, right?

Wrong. Mackenzie Phillips was given about as much of a chance to survive in this world as the average Brazilian street kid. The main difference between Mackenzie and those poor urchins is that they were abandoned to the street while her own father paved a boulevard of depravity right through his daughter's home.

John Phillips began drugging Mackenzie with cocaine when she was 11. Eventually he commenced shooting her up with heroin. On one of those occasions, when Ms Phillips was in her late teens, she "came to" while her father was raping her. After that she said she began to have "consensual sex" with him. But it was not consensual because she did not give informed consent. How could she? The only information she had to go on was that it was apparently appropriate for her to be in a drug-induced stupor as she was sexually and emotionally exploited and abused by her father and whatever other scumbags happened to pass through what should have been her safe childhood home.
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Think of it: she had passed out from what may well have been an overdose. At a moment when she could have been dying, her father chose to rape her rather than revive her. When she regained consciousness, she awoke to something so horrible that it led to several more years of drug and sexual abuse with, and by, her perpetrator. And why not? She already felt vile and empty and hopeless. How much more ruined could she be by succumbing to the Stockholm Syndrome and embracing and "permitting" her violator's heinous misdeeds? Why not emulate his deplorable conduct?

When Ms Phillips let the word "consensual" slip while being interviewed on Oprah the other day, she armed her detractors with all they needed. I wonder if any of these people have ever been mugged. I wonder how they'd feel if their mugging was videotaped and someone edited the tape to only show them handing over their valuables. How would they feel if they were then blamed for willingly giving the perpetrator what he wanted?

And so a lot of people now justify harsh judgments of Mackenzie Phillips because she was a "junkie" who "consented" to an incestuous relationship. They ask why she had no moral compass while ignoring the fact that she had been blindfolded and spun ever since she was small child. In such dizzying circumstances, she never once had the kind of clear mind needed to give informed consent to anything. John Phillips never gave his little girl the moral guidance that is a child's birthright. Instead, he made sure that she felt complicit in her drug abuse and sexual exploitation, assaults and rapes. That's what mega-perps like John Phillips do. They turn children's lives into unspeakable hell and then instruct their victims to blame themselves for their pain. The rest of the time they make sure that their prey understands just how unspeakable everything is. And they do this while counting on the average person to snicker away from such situations with seedy little jokes rather than summon the courage to confront the unspeakable. Because of such societal cowardice, John Phillips was able to hide in a bright spotlight.

Now Mackenzie Phillips has sold the legacy her father left her -- the tale of terror that is her life's story. Many will, and are, saying that because she stands to derive a profit from her book "High on Arrival," we know all we need to know about her motives. This is nothing more than an attempt to punish her for speaking the unspeakable. But the only chance abused kids like Mackenzie Phillips have is recovering adults like Mackenzie Phillips, who bravely disclose that this world is still a very unsafe place for kids, whether they are abandoned to the madness of Third World streets or the seclusion of a celebrity's sick and secret life.
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updated: 13 years ago