Title: Unraveling Charlie
Author: Donald McLean
Title: Unraveling Charlie
Author: Donald McLean
These past several years have witnessed many despicable sex abuse scandals such as those concerning certain clergy associated with the Catholic Church, as well as the most recent horrendous story involving Jerry Sandusky of Penn State University. As a result, pedophilia has become a topic of increased concern and our conceptions about pedophiles are rapidly changing as we learn more about these mentally ill individuals.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), pedophilia is defined as recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviors involving sexual acts with a child that occur over a period of at least six months. In most cases, the pedophile is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child. Those who suffer from pedophilia have a compulsion to abuse young children. And there is no one size that fits the profile of all these pedophiles. Unfortunately, very often some of these individuals are professionals entrusted with educating our youth or maintaining the well-being and health of young persons.
Donald McLean was only twelve years old when he began being molested by Charlie Schoeler, his sister's high school teacher. In his emotionally charged fictional memoir, Unraveling Charlie, McLean informs us that the events that he is recounting occurred over forty years ago, and although he considers his memory to be good, it is not perfect and thus he had to reconstruct some conversations and time-lines.
What is interesting is he clearly confesses that he does not have a problem disclosing that he was a victim of a pedophile, however, his reason for writing a work of fiction rather than non-fiction was that he didn't want to put anyone in a position where they could be identified and thus perhaps cast some blame on them for not intervening, particularly if they had some inkling that he was being molested.
Readers learn how McLean's relationship with Schoeler started as a bond of meaningful friendship where he could count on Schoeler as being his mentor and friend whom he could participate with in many interesting ventures where normally he never would have a chance to experience. And it began innocently where Schoeler would take McLean to the beach during the summer and skating during the winter months, all with the approval and permission of his mother who was delighted that someone was able to expose him to something she and her husband did not have the time or money to give their son and never even suspecting that something awful was going on.
McLean portrays it as “an emotional incubus to a twelve-year old. If you hold a pretty bauble up in front of most children, they're going to grab it.” It also included being introduced to some of Schoeler's friends and summer vacation times spent at their homes located at a Retreat in Port Esther.
It didn't take very long where the relationship began to descend into something repugnant and despicable when Schoeler began touching McLean's private parts. McLean states that he was not shocked and he really didn't have any reaction, as he wasn't stunned or repulsed, although he may have been confused. It should be mentioned that generally children who are molested don't conceive as sex being something separate from the relationship itself. As McLean further mentions, “When I thought about it that night I was a little scared about what happened at the beach. In a strange way I was also a little thrilled. That's what monsters are supposed to do isn't it? Scare you and thrill you at the same time.”
As for Schoeler, he was emotionally crippled and there was zero concern for the damage he caused to McLean that would lead to the latter's drug and alcohol abuse, drug peddling, self-blame, extreme anger, difficult interactions with his peers, girlfriends, and family. Briefly, as we discover, McLean was messed up, damaged and robbed of his childhood, yet, he continued to stay with Schoeler- something he questioned for many years.
What is even more baffling to many readers is that notwithstanding being molested as a child, McLean did grow up to be strong and normal. Moreover, he maintained a profound curiosity about Schoeler, whom he established an adult relationship, trying to fully understand the mental illness that imprisoned his molester.
at times, nonetheless, Unraveling Charlie reflects
the well-known edict that writing about what you know can sometimes
lead to an impressive work of fiction, and in this case, it certainly
comes through with flying colors as it mirrors the realness of a
horrendous relationship, which McLean narrates with masterful
economy. In addition, readers may also take away a better
understanding of what makes pedophiles tick and come to the
realization, as McLean did, that it is a mental disease that
unfortunately at this time does not respond very well to treatment. I
commend McLean for his candid and honest narrative-something worth