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in pete's own words, pre-arrest

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Jan 14, 2003, 4:01:12 AM1/14/03
this is the article Dave Marsh referred to as being sent to him last
summer. it is lengthy for a posting, though deserves to be shown in
its entirety to enhance a public debate based on all the facts in the

A Different Bomb
Pete Townshend

For 'Cloud'

This past week a friend of mine committed suicide. She was a
forty-something actress,recovering from alcoholism. Although I am a
recovering alcoholic myself I knew her best through my work as a
fund-raiser for treatment for those needing alcohol and drug
rehabilitation. We first met about seven years ago. One day, in an
open counselling
session at which adult men and women of all ages were present, she
suddenly revealed
her central issue. From as early as she could remember, as an infant
girl she had been
sexually abused on a regular basis by her father, and in his presence
by several of his
friends. At first, she referred to her father as a 'priest'. Later she
revealed that these were
members of some kind of religious cult. A charity with which I am
involved paid for her
to go for treatment for depression at The Priory last year. She was
greatly improved when
she came out. Partly I think because her story was believed. She had
felt safe, and various
innovative new therapeutic techniques promised to help her further.
She became a day
Within a few weeks she started to slide again, pleading to be allowed
to go back in
for further live-in treatment. There were no further funds available
to pay for this. After a
month or two, emotionally speaking she was back where she had started:
at a rockbottom.
Her friends endured an oscillating love-loss relationship with her.
She was funny,
honest, energetic and smart. But she was often desperate for
affection, attention and help.
As a result she could be exhausting. For all of us who helped her,
including several
women who themselves experienced similar sexual abuse as children, her
suicide was
both a tragedy and an act of brutal insanity. What pushed this woman
to the brink was not
self-obsession - though God knows she enjoyed her share, like any
individual ensnared in
alcohol or drug addiction - it was the fact that she discovered her
father was in a new
relationship and had access to some young children.
It seems then that the greatest terror for an adult who remembers
sexual abuse is the
thought that other children might suffer as they did.
In my writing in the past - especially Tommy - I have created
unusually unmerciful
worlds for any infant characters. I am often disturbed by what I see
on the page when I
write - never more so than when I draw on my own childhood. Some
people who were
abused in their childhood have written to me to say how much they
identify with the
character of Tommy. But what is powerful in my own writing, and
sometimes most
difficult to control and model, is the unconscious material I draw on.
It is what is
unconscious in me that makes me scream for vengeance against my
friend's abusers,
rather than an adult understanding of what went wrong.
I remember no specific sexual abuse, though when I was young I was
treated in an
extremely controlling and aggressive way by my maternal grandmother.
This is not
unusual. It might be described by some as insignificant. Almost
everyone I know
experienced similar stuff at some time or other - many friends
experienced more extreme
'abuses' and have no obvious adult vices as a result.
On the issue of child-abuse, the climate in the press, the police, and
in Government
in the UK at the moment is one of a witch-hunt. This may well be the
natural response
triggered by cases like that of my friend who committed suicide. But I
believe it is rather
more a reaction to the 'freedoms' that are now available to us all to
enter into the reality of
a world that most of us would have to admit has hitherto been kept
secret. The world of
which I speak is that of the abusive paedophile. The window of
'freedom' of entry to that
world is of course the internet.
There is hardly a man I know who uses computers who will not admit to
casually sometimes to find pornography. I have done it. Certainly, one
expects only to
find what is available on the top shelf at the newsagents. I make no
argument here for or
against 'hard' or 'soft' pornography. What is certain is that
providers of porn feel the need
to constantly 'refresh' their supply. So new victims are drawn in
every day. This is just as
true on the internet as it is in the world of magazines and video.
However, what many
people fail to realise is how - by visiting their websites - we
directly and effectively
subsidise pornographers. This is true whether we do so unwittingly or
deliberately, out of
curiosity or a vigilante spirit. Vigilante campaigners I have
contacted on the internet tell
me that many porn sites that claim to feature underage subjects do not
- in fact - do so.
Many that are 'genuine' do feature much the same content on the inside
as they do on
their free pop-up pages that litter search engines. So why do these
pornographers bother
with us at all? They can't be getting rich. Why can't they remain
As someone who runs a 'commercial' website of my own I am fully aware
of how
direct the avenue is between the provider and the user of any internet
site. I am also
aware - as are most people today I think - of how easy it is to
trigger the attention of an
internet service provider (ISP) when certain 'buzz-words' are used in
a search. These are,
in effect, words - or combinations of words - that alert attention at
the ISP.
This first came to my attention when in 1997 a man who had briefly
worked for me
was arrested in the UK for downloading paedophilic pornography. I was
cautious of
openly condemning him. He had performed in one of my musicals and was
a popular
figure in the soft-pop pantomime of the UK music scene. When he went
to trial, the buzzword
that the newspapers kept reprinting - that he had allegedly used in
his regular
internet searches - was 'lolita'. A few weeks into the trial The
Guardian newspaper
revealed that listed 'lolita' high on the list
of the most searched
words in the UK ('sex' is often No.1). It seemed to me that there was
some hypocrisy
going on. Who were all these people typing 'lolita' into their
browsers? They were surely
not all paedophiles. They may have been vigilantes. I'm fairly certain
that in most cases
they were simply curious of what they might find.
The terrible part is that what they found on the internet will almost
have certainly
found them by return. It is not to suggest that every one of them was
'hooked' as soon as
they found a porn site professing to display underage subjects, it is
to say that because
their visit was undoubtedly recorded by the site or sites in question,
the pornographers
who run those sites would have found validation and commercial promise
for their
activity. They would then have redoubled their efforts in that area.
Many porn sites use software triggers so that when you try to leave a
site upon
which you may have unwittingly stumbled, another similar - or worse -
site immediately
pops up. When you try to shut that site, another pops up, then
another, then another, the
content getting more and more extreme until your browser is solid with
pornography and
eventually will seize up as though choking on some vapid manifestation
of evil itself.
Thus it is that the pornographer's validation is spawned at the same
time. One site opened
triggers another dozen or more - all of which you have unwillingly
'visited'. All of which
will have a record of your computer's unique address.
It was obvious to me (though obviously not to the rest of the country)
while the
man I knew was on trial, that 'lolita' is not a word to use carelessly
when searching the
internet - even if one happened to be studying Nabokov for a
literature degree. So I had
my first encounter with internet paedophilia by accident.
Ethan Silverman, a film director friend, had made an extremely moving
documentary about an American couple who adopted a Russian boy. As a
charity fundraiser
(and, I suppose, philanthropist to boot) I wanted to support the work
of such
orphanages and decided to see if I could - via the internet - find
legitimate contacts to
help. (I had tried many other methods and failed). The various words I
used included
'Russia' and 'orphanages'. I used no words that could usually be taken
to be sexual or
lascivious, except - perhaps ill-advisedly - the word 'boys'.
Within about ten minutes of entering my search words I was confronted
with a 'free'
image of a male infant of about two years old being buggered by an
unseen man. The
blazer on the page claimed that sex with children is 'not illegal in
Russia'. This was not
smut. It was a depiction of a real rape. The victim, if the infant boy
survived and my
experience was anything to go by, would probably one day take his own
life. The awful
reality hit me of the self-propelling, self-spawning mechanism of the
internet. I reached
for the phone, I intended to call the police and take them through the
process I had
stumbled upon - and bring the pornographers involved to book.
Then I thought twice about it. With someone on trial who had once been
with me - however loosely - I spoke off-the-record to a lawyer
instead. He advised me to
do nothing. He advised me that I most certainly should not download
the image as
'evidence'. So I did as he advised. Nothing.
I mentioned my own internet experience to a few people close to me.
The trial of
the man who had been in my musical was on everyone's agenda. It became
clear very
quickly that some people I spoke to were sceptical of me. I think they
thought that if I
had searched using the right words, my exposure to that terrible image
would not have
It might be strange to hear that I was glad I found it. Until then,
like my ostrich-like
friends, I imagined that only those who communicated on the internet
using secret codes,
private chat-rooms and encrypted files would ever be exposed to this
kind of porn. But I
learned through this accident that such images were 'freely' available
through the
machinery of common search engines and User-Groups, and openly
available for sale
through subscription via credit card. I was then concerned that there
would be those
'providers' of paedophilic porn who felt the need to regularly
'refresh' their supply of
images. It is a chilling thought isn't it? Even so, I found myself
wondering whether that
thought brought fears for me that were, perhaps, quite out of
proportion with reality:
maybe I was stirring my own subconscious memories; maybe I was just
being pompous.
Now my friend has joined a long line of suicides who were sexually
abused as
children, and I feel I must speak up.
Since 1997 I have been attempting to prepare some kind of document
with respect to all
this for wider publication. My feeling is that if internet service
providers (ISPs) can be
enlisted by the police and other authorities to 'snoop' and provide
information about
customers downloading illegal pornography, they could just as easily
filter search terms -
or better yet, practice combinations of such search terms on a regular
basis and then block
specific site names. Many ISPs do such work. It is part of their
regular housekeeping. But
the pornographers are rich, determined, and - in the area of under-age
pornography -
criminal. Banned sites are replicated, renamed and replaced in days.
Why am I suddenly writing this today? My friend who committed suicide
was the
victim of an active but secret ring of paedophiles. They are still at
large today. Only those
who knew my friend, and believed her story, feel any urge to speak up
against her
abusers. But we have no proof. It is frustrating, but for her, at
least, the pain is over.
Meanwhile, on the internet, vigilante groups and individuals work
tirelessly and
obsessively both to trace and block certain porn sites and to offer -
through 12 Step
programmes for sex-addiction - probably the only way out for some
ensnared by
addiction to what the internet has to offer.
It has all gone public now. The ISP I use allows access to User Groups
by using the
term 'alt' as a prefix. In 'Google' (a popular search engine) it is
possible to reach a
questionable array of offered sex sites with very few key-strokes, and
without actually
typing a single word. The pathway to 'free' paedophilic imagery is -
as it were - laid out
like a free line of cocaine at a decadent cocktail party: only the
strong willed or
terminally uncurious can resist. Those vigilantes who research these
pathways open
themselves up to internet 'snoops'. Many are willing to take the risk.
They believe the
pathways themselves must be closed. They must be totally and
completely eradicated
from the internet. If that is not possible they must be openly policed
by active and
obstructive vigilantes - not just 'snooped' by government agencies and
I understand the police believe that snooping on the internet might
lead them to
active paedophiles - their philosophy being that it is the ones who
are secret who do the
damage. In the case of my suicide friend I would have to agree.
However, in other
countries children are not so precious. Brazil, Russia and Thailand
all have well-known
and tragic orphanages and street-children problems, and these
countries probably provide
source material for many sites.
In my work fund-raising in the field of drug and alcohol
rehabilitation I have come
across hundreds of individuals from the UK and Europe whose problems
have been
triggered by childhood abuse. Not always, but often, the abuse is
sexual. Sometimes it is
quite minor, but even in those cases - for some reason - spectacularly
damaging. Not all
addicts and alcoholics are victims. They are, perhaps, a minority. But
among those
afflicted by addiction abuse is terribly common. In some cases, what
is so distressing is
how little it takes. For me, a few minor incidents seem to have
created a dark side to my
nature which thankfully emerges only in creative work like Tommy. It
is not statistically
true that all abusers of children were once themselves abused. That
can happen, but often
- as in the case of my suicide friend - abuse is part of a reward
system of power conferred
from one adult person to another. But among pornographers only
validation and cash
matter. What is certain is that the internet has brought the sexual
abuse of children into
the open. It is not 'respectable' or 'acceptable' at any level of
society. It is simply in the
Many returning from my friend's funeral had wanted to punch her father
who was
present. But they restrained themselves. Many present were recovering
alcoholics. They
are not given to witch-hunts. They are wary of hypocrisy. But given
the chance, many of
them would have told their own stories about what was done to them by
abusers sodden
with drink or numb with drugs, and possibly what they themselves did
'under the
influence' that was equally reprehensible. But if abusers and their
accomplices are not
necessarily victims of abuse, and not necessarily men, then they are
also not necessarily
drunk or drugged. Booze and drugs are here to stay. But it must be
time to do something
more concrete to stop the proliferation of questionable pornography
that seems so readily
and openly facilitated by the internet.
Another danger is this: I think it must be obvious that many children
are becoming
inured to pornography much too early and - as I have demonstrated -
the internet provides
a very short route indeed to some of the most evil and shocking images
of rape and
The subconscious mind is deeply damaged and indelibly scarred by the
sight of such
images. I can assure everyone reading this that if they go off in
pursuit of images of
paedophilic rape they will find them. I urge them not to try. I pray
too that they don't
happen upon such images as did I, by accident. If they do they may
like me become so
enraged and disturbed that their dreams are forever haunted.

1 Software to filter out and block porn at home is often too complex
and sweeping to do the job, or too
feeble. At the moment, it's all we have. I recommend CyberPatrol - - it isn't easy to
set up, but it is powerful. Once it is running it begins to make the
internet feel a much friendlier and safer
place for our children.


Jan 15, 2003, 2:52:54 PM1/15/03
Pete says,

>I remember no specific sexual abuse, though when I was young I was
>treated in an
>extremely controlling and aggressive way by my maternal grandmother.

I would like to think Pete's innocent/not guilty, but what I don't understand
is first he says the above line. Later, he says something different.

In addition, I seriously doubt one would feel the need to access child porn
sites in order to do research on the subject. If I was doing a paper on drugs,
I certainly wouldn't go out and buy some smack.

The more I read his comments and piece together his side of the story, the more
I'm not liking what I'm reading.
Here's hoping for the best.


Jan 15, 2003, 7:24:16 PM1/15/03
rockand...@aol.comnospam (RockAndRollMutt) wrote in message news:<>...

The line I find kinda disturbing ois this one -

"The pathway to 'free' paedophilic imagery is - as it were - laid out
like a free line of cocaine at a decadent cocktail party: only the
strong willed or terminally uncurious can resist".

Perhaps I'm just strong willed or thankfully not curious.


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