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Melissa Huckaby and the Unthinkable Sex Object

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As horrifying as the murder of an 8-year-old is, the truly unimaginable aspect of the Melissa Huckaby case, for most people, is her alleged use of a foreign object to rape Sandra Cantu. How could a woman, a mom (!), do this to a little girl? How . . . why . . . with what kind of an object? It's unfathomable, hard to think about, dark, evil. The only "safe" conclusion is that the woman must be insane. In fact, along with other experts, I doubt if Huckaby is insane. And as I know both from personal experience and from working with many abused women, rape with a foreign object is not as unusual as one would like to think.

Let me explain. Sexual molestation is not so much about sex as it's about power. Rape, with or without a foreign object, is an act that disempowers the victim so the rapist can somehow reclaim the power/integrity that was stolen from them at some previous time. The rapist may not remember the physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse he or she suffered as a child. It may be buried deep in the psyche. The person never deals with the trauma, never clears the deep shame and humiliation and fear that were the legacy of the abuse, and so may be at risk to repeat the behavior they learned.

I am in no way suggesting that Melissa Huckaby shouldn't be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for what she did nor am I justifying anyone's behavior on the basis they were once abused. I'm simply trying to help people understand the dynamics of rape with a foreign object and shed light on a very hidden topic. It's a very under-reported crime because the victim is so helpless and humiliated.

Imagine that you were abused when you were a young child, maybe with a stick. It was horribly painful, and you were terrified, but somehow sexual titillation got linked to the use of an object. You split those experiences off from conscious memory and buried all the anger and shame deep inside. You grew up, married, had children. Then one day your child or your brother's child or the neighbor's child, as in Huckaby's case, reaches the age you were when the abuse happened, and you find yourself having thoughts about the child that you know are wrong, but you can't help the forbidden feelings. Should you act on that sexual inclination, you open a Pandora's box of unconscious overwhelming feelings that can get horribly out of control. TV station KCRA 3 reported on its web site that investigators close to the case said Huckaby admitted that Sandra Cantu's death was an accident. That is very possible.

Sexual predators who target young children are often trying, in their own twisted way, to get back the innocence that was stolen from them. They are attracted to the child's light, the child's goodness -- the light and goodness they wish they still had. They are often mirroring their own childhood, trying in a sick way to heal what was done to them.

I was sexually abused by my father from the age of two until I was on the verge of becoming a teenager. Sometimes he would use a hairbrush or a glass coke bottle for penetration. Maybe he'd been abused or severely beaten with a similar object; I don't know. It was horribly painful, and the pain created even more fear. His domination, his power over me, was complete. But I never forgot or denied the abuse, and I spent many many years working diligently on myself to clear the burden of shame and self loathing and rage.

When I entered the health and wellness field, I was amazed at the number of people who reported they had been abused. Perhaps they were unconsciously attracted to me because I was the perfect person to help them on their path of healing. I had passed through the fire and could be compassionate and non-judgmental about their situation.

Over the years, more than several clients confided they had been raped with an object --kitchen utensils, silverware, knives, scissors; one woman reported pieces of glass. A penis isn't going to tear up your insides (unless you're a very small child), but rape a female with something that inflicts real damage and your domination is assured. Plus, an object further disempowers and humiliates the victim. And if the perpetrator is male and feels impotent on any level, an object can be a penis substitute. If the perpetrator was himself or herself abused (and I've yet to see an instance where this was not the case) they will often use the same type of object that was used on them.

In the case of Melissa Huckaby, what is unusual is that this is a woman who abused a young girl, she did not have a male accomplice that she was trying to please, and the abuse resulted in death. She's never ever getting out of jail unless she can prove insanity or temporary insanity, which is highly unlikely given her actions. She went through very sane actions to hide what she had done -- stuffing the dead child in a suitcase, dumping the suitcase in a pond, writing a note, lying to investigators and journalists. These actions make an insanity plea less likely to succeed. I hope this is some very small comfort to Sandra Cantu's parents, who have had to imagine the unthinkable happening to their daughter, last seen skipping down the street in her Hello Kitty t-shirt to the home of her little friend and the friend's mom, the Sunday school teacher.