Posted by: Peaceful Social Worker | March 23, 2012

I swore at my client!?

Yes, it’s true. It was the first session too. Of course, there is a story…..

I have been thinking about this client since my last post about Graham James and pedophiles. I was working at an addictions program in Ontario. I was doing intake assessments, so he was an intake. Thankfully, he was not someone I would have to continue to work with. He came in and perhaps looked like a sex offender. By that I mean, I could see he was “odd” at the least. For the record, not all sex offenders look like sex offenders….whatever that means. They are often nice people who children like. They will often put themselves in situations where they are around children, a lot.  They often do not get along with peers, or have few peer relationships.

Back to the client…..he was probably around 5’6″ or so, with silver or grey hair. His hair was in a page boy cut as I recall. He was a little pudgy and wore a collared shirt and trousers. He had a slightly rumpled look. His shirt was open a bit and I could see that he had a string of red beads under it. I suspect he was wearing women’s underwear. Of course, I had no way of knowing that, and was not going to ask. I knew he had been convicted of sexually abusing a four year old girl, and that he had done time. I am not sure how I knew that. I suspect it was on his referral, and that possibly he was mandated to take treatment. That was a long time ago. At any rate, we were talking about this conviction and I was trying to get a sense of his perspective on it. He told me the girl agreed to the sexual behaviour. Before I knew it, and without any thought, I said “That’s bullshit!”. Immediately I thought “oh crap, I’m fired”…….so I back pedalled a bit. I explained my reaction, and said that a little girl NEVER agrees to that. She may have looked like she had because she was taught to respect her elders, and do what she is told. She might have been scared. She might have been anything. But, she did not agree to it. As it turns out, that was a very good intervention. I believe he understood. As much as he could anyway.

We often hear that sex offenders are monsters. I don’t dispute that. When I use the term “sex offenders” here, I include pedophiles, etc, since this is just a blog and not an academic paper. It would be really nice if they were monsters, and if we could see that at first glance. Like it or not, they are also human beings. I am not saying that to excuse them or anything. It is simply a statement of fact. Some, like the man I described above, are quite pitiful, really. I’m not sure what made that man, or men like him, that way. I just know he (they are) is a misfit in the truest sense. Sadly though, a misfit who has hurt others.

As a social worker, I was taught to “respect the intrinsic worth and dignity” of the individuals who become my clients. In fact, the first point on the BC Code of Ethics for social workers is “shall maintain the best interest of the client as the primary professional obligation”. The second point is “shall respect the intrinsic worth of the persons served in professional relationships with them”. I strongly believe in these two principles. Most days, these two points in the code of ethics are no problem. They do present a challenge for me with the occasional person, and sex offenders would fall under that category.

I was also raised in the United Church, and went to Sunday School as a child. I learned there, that we were to love one another as Jesus did.  I learned that we are supposed to have compassion for others.

People who hurt children, or do other awful things certainly challenge my beliefs some days. Never-the-less, I do continue to hold these beliefs. Showing compassion for another is not accepting unacceptable behaviour. It is not making excuses for them. It is merely seeing their humanity. Perhaps if I can show compassion for those who are hard to love, I will become more accepting of what life throws my way. Maybe too, that “monster” I meet might also teach me something good.

Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation. ~ Henry Ward Beecher


  1. Life is a series of lessons, and it looks like you are an apt pupil

  2. Wow sis, excellent post. Per you recommendation I just finished reading your earlier post about the Graham James verdict and the subsequent replies. Also an excellent post. All these years as sisters and I had no idea you were such a great writer!! Have you considered a newspaper column? Great stuff!!

    • I thought I was replying to this, and my reply just disappeared. At any rate, thanks for your comments and praise! I always appreciate praise. 😀 One person suggested I could submit church posts to The Observer. She also said she would quote them if she were still in the pulpit. Another friend suggested I submit to the social work newsletter. We’ll see what happens. I don’t want pressure at this point. I look forward to seeing what you write. 🙂

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