Given the title, I suppose I could be talking about men and their fantasies of women and that would be plenty normal and everyone would understand. But I would prefer to talk about women who choose to be therapist to men who have assaulted women and/or children. I don't pretend to be an expert about what goes on in these women's heads, but I have met and worked with a few and have learned a thing or two about their spirit and motivation.
I am currently writing a series of novels featuring a female protagonist who is a forensic psychologist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of sex offenders. It's a difficult sell; I'm the first to admit that. Who wants to read about that population of pervs? But it makes it doubly hard to sell the idea that a woman might have a real interest in treating these individuals with the hopes that they will get better. And everyone knows they'll never get better so it's a lost cause on top of everything else. Right? Wrong.
Over the course of the 40 years or so that I've been in this field, I've worked with a number of women. Some of these women have been probation officers, some have been prosecuting attorneys and judges, but the ones I know best have been the therapists, the women charged with establishing a working relationship with the men (and women) who have crossed deeply entrenched boundaries to commit crimes that hardly anyone ever wants to talk about. I imagine these women as angels of a sort. There can be all types of angels, of course (Satan, for example, was once an angel), and some do more effective work than others. I recall one incident many years ago when I was conducting groups with two female co-therapists, the newest one of which showed up at the first meeting wearing an extremely tight T-shirt sporting a picture of a cartoon man and woman, tongues hanging out, lusting after a rather large banana, with the logo, "Peel me one!" scrawled across the front, begging anyone close to take extra seconds to read it. It was my opinion this might not have been the best introduction to the group for this young professional woman to make. The men, on the other hand, seemed to treat her as their new favorite. I've worked with others on the opposite end of the scale; those who come through the door carrying a list of topics to be covered, of behaviors to be commented upon, of chips to be knocked off sturdy shoulders. The "tell me about your week, but you'd better have been good" type of therapist.
There are those women, however who approach this job with a modicum of respect for their clients, a strong need to right wrongs, and mostly with an understanding that these men would not be sitting in a group room with them if they didn't have something wrong in their adaptation to life and that they most likely would die for a chance to change that adaptation so they could feel "normal". Whether the men realize this or not, it's these women who turn out to be their saviors. They are willing to briefly ignore the sexist slights or misogynistic tone for the time being and restrain their anger or disappointment for a time when their response can be more therapeutic and the men can actually hear it and try to make changes.
Of course these women (and men) have their own reasons for getting into the field in the first place, and there will be more about that later, but the ones who stay, who survive the regular onslaught against their woman-ness, are the true angels. I worship them. So should you.
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