About the New Letters

So, last week I was able to officially add to that string of letters that follows my name when I’m feeling professionally pretentious enough to attach it (like on the main pages of this blog).  The new letters: ASOTP.  I am loath to spell out what exactly it means, as that revelation is usually followed by one of a small number of responses, most of which can be boiled down to either a prurient curiosity or an “Ewww!” reaction—if those are really different things.  Different sides of a two-headed coin, I suppose.

Deep breath, throw it out there, let it sink in.

The letters stand for Affiliate Srrm Orrherrm Treatment Provider.

Ahem.  Let me try that again.

The new letters stand for “Affiliate Sex Offender Treatment Provider.”  In other words, I’m now officially allowed to provide therapy specific to the, uh, needs of convicted sex offenders, generally those who are involved in particular sentencing programs that I won’t detail here, apart from saying that they involve community supervision.  And, more accurately, the “Affiliate” portion of that title means that I am allowed to provide such treatment so long as I have a supervisor who is a Certified SOTP (having a contract with such a supervisor being one of the elements necessary to be granted said letters).

While this particular status is new, my involvement in the treatment of sex offenders is not. I’ve been working in one capacity or another with both juvenile and adult sex offenders for a little over six years now—which sounds like both an insanely long and an unimaginably short period of time to me.

So, why, may you ask, would I want to work with sex offenders?  Everybody asks.  And my answer is usually rather vague and abbreviated, dodging the real heft of the answer.  Let me attempt to present the most straight line formulation of this reason that I can, and please follow closely or you may get a lot of incorrect impressions…

My father was a pastor in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, “stationed” in the Midwest for that part of my life when we were both alive.  My father was killed by a reckless driver exactly one week before my third birthday (which is where a lot of that attachment and blankie business comes in).  My mother, my siblings, and I then moved out to the West Coast, where we soon joined a(n) LCMS church with two pastors.

One of those pastors turned out to be a sex offender, of the hands-on, child molesting type, including incestuous molestation.  For the record, I had always been very wary of this pastor and kept my distance, despite his apparent popularity with other kids/teens in the church.  (Someone call Oprah—or whoever has usurped her throne—to see if we can suss out whether this has to do with repressed memories, supernaturalish intuition, or guardian angels).

The information about the SO pastor became public knowledge during my first year of college, when I was already pretty deep into a crisis of faith.

Bye-bye, faith.

Now if you want something to piss out the flame of your faith, there’s nothing quite like having one of the pastors most responsible for your religious education turn out to be a child molester.  This is particularly dousing when it follows that whole bit about God letting your dad, one of His faithful servants, get killed in a totally senseless accident—all while driving a Pacer, nonetheless (my dad was the one driving the Pacer, not God).

I don’t know how common it is for PKs (preacher’s kids, not Penalty Kicks or Player Kills or Purple Kush{es?} you sporty stoner nerds) to feel some sort of obligation to follow in their father’s (or mother’s in some churches that don’t include the LCMS) footsteps.  But for this kid, who never really even had a conversation with his dad, yet was enthralled by the idea of someone devoting his/her life to faith, there was a perceived pressure to aim, or perhaps a desire to feel at least the smallest inclination to lean, in that direction.  There was a weird, but unfulfilled, sense that there should be a calling—that God should be reaching out a hand, or tugging a leash, or kicking a butt.  I mean, if God could go to the trouble of getting that Jonah guy swallowed up and barfed out at exactly the right times and places, why not at least lay out something more profound than watery eyes during the candlelit singing of “Silent Night” at the Christmas Eve service?

So much for that straight-line formulation.

Anyway, while it took the overcoming of numerous mental blocks and bad habits (okay, the habits are still there) to get to the point where the idea of a ‘life of service’ was even a possibility, the calling wasn’t really perceived until it was time to sign up for final projects in the ‘Abnormal Psych’ course of my Master’s Program.  The list went around.  And while I immediately knew to sign up for a presentation on Pedophilia, I found myself choosing Conversion Disorder (‘hysterical blindness’ and the like) instead.  A sense of guilt immediately began eating away at me, until, a short time later, bothered by what I felt was cowardice at steering clear of the topic I really wanted to study, I tracked down the clipboard with the list, erased my name from the line next to Conversion Disorder, and instead, wrote it next to Pedophilia.

An explosion of anxiety and purpose, roughly on the order of the destruction of the first Death Star, or perhaps equal to the magnitude of the reaction of a normal human digestive system to a Jack-in-the-Box meal, tipped my world forever in the direction I had been looking for…or kind of looking for…or at least in some damn direction for the time being while I decided if this was really what I wanted to involve myself in.

At any rate, it was momentous enough to stick in my brain as some kind of pivotal event that all that previous junk had led up to…or to which all that previous junk had led.

More on that later.

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