Words cannot take us everywhere, nor should they. Before the most sublime truths, we grow reverently still. Confronted with bestiality, we shudder at the unspeakable. But in the Age of Blab, everything must be talked about." Indeed, modem journalists consider it progress to be able to chat endlessly about depravities our wiser ancestors refused even to name. So we must contend with productions such as John Crewdson's book on the sexual abuse of children.
An industrious researcher, Crewdson has interviewed dozens of victims and perpetrators of child abuse, has consulted scores of professionals, and has pulled his findings together in a crisp and readable book. Indeed, the breezy clarity of style symptomizes the fatal deficiency of this book. In treating sexual abuse as one more social problem to be solved through public discussion and policy reform, Crewdson hopelessly trivializes his subject.
Something of the horror of sex abuse does break through the journalistic banality in the interviews with victims. As voices of deep suffering, they deserve a hearing. But that hearing ought to come from those who love the speakers and have a long-term commitment to them. To put the sordid past of the sexually abused on public display for the scrutiny of strangers is to foster both exhibitionism and voyeurism. I felt dirty and defiled reading some of Crewdson's interviews.
Crewdson congratulates himself and others...