Further Reading

Can post-traumatic shock make you a child pornography user?

My husband has been experiencing vivid flashbacks of his experiences in Vietnam. I recently discovered that he has been "avoiding" this flashbacks (in which he has told me that he can even smell the death in Vietnam) by going online and engaging in talk about child pornography and accepting pictures. He tells me that he has no idea of what he is doing....that it is an escape from the flashbacks.

Tell me, does this happen? Does someone do something so horrible to get away from memories and not remember doing it?

Anonymous


Dear Anonymous

I don't think so. I can understand having horrible memories, and even doing things that are bad for you as a result. But child pornography? What's the connection? Sounds like an excuse to me. There was a group in New York called the Westies, and one of the worst psychokillers in the crew (named Mickey Featherstone) successfully used as a defense that he was a Vietnam vet and had post-traumatic shock syndrome — until they discovered Featherstone was a non-combat supply clerk in Vietnam.

Stanton


Dr. Peele:

At your Web site, "Can post-traumatic shock make you a child pornography user?" you brought up the issue of Mickey Featherstone to prove the point in the negative.

I quote: "There was a group in New York called the Westies, and one of the worst psychokillers in the crew (named Mickey Featherstone) successfully used as a defense that he was a Vietnam vet and had post-traumatic shock syndrome — until they discovered Featherstone was a non-combat supply clerk in Vietnam."

Actually, the story is more complicated. If you read The Westies by T.J. English, a reliable author who documented the gang, he recounts that Featherstone was sexually assaulted in Vietnam and given a forced circumcision by his fellow servicemen out on a drunken prank. The whole incident severely traumatized him. They went out on a drunk and mutilated him.....how critically the book did not make clear. But even if mild, such an assault, with its permanent physical scarring would be worse than a rape.

And Vietnam was still dangerous - even to a non-combat supply clerk. It was a guerilla war not frontal war.

I am not saying that post-traumatic stress can or cannot cause behaviors....I am saying that Mickey Featherstone does NOT prove a good example either way since there is evidence of pre-Vietnam organic emotional problems as well as intense problems which were linked, indeed yes, to Vietnam trauma. Whether or not Vietnam was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back or incidental but not proximate will never be known. I would hazard a guess and say: Yes, Vietnam contributed to his condition; but no one can say for sure either way. Besides Featherstone was raised in the classically terrible environs of Hell's Kitchen which did have a reputation for turning out lots of criminals. Surely more than less savage neighborhoods like Westchester's Mount Vernon, etc.

If you are interested; but you probably have better things to read, check out T. J. English's Westies: Inside the Hell's Kitchen Irish Mob.

The author's name is peculiarly ironic.

However, I assume you are busy and probably have better things to read. The answer you gave in your Web site may still be right; but Featherstone is not a good example.

Brian


Dear Brian:

Very well written and to the point, especially the forced circumcision. But if anyone who worked in any capacity in Vietnam can have a psychiatric condition like post-traumatic shock — the whole concept loses any meaning. Likewise the drunken "circumcision" (which, as you point out, could occur at home in a violent area like Hell's Kitchen). When people regularly undergo violent experiences — because of who they are, where they live, who they associate with — it seems to describe a social circumstance rather than an individual experience or malady. For example, it seems we could readily say that everyone brought up in a horrible inner-city environment could be said to suffer from "post-traumatic stress." But that doesn't seem to be the best, most accurate way to characterize or deal with the problem.

Best,
Stanton