Jerry Travis's Reviews > The Safety Factor - The Use of Power

The Safety Factor - The Use of Power by Jerry Travis
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Nov 28, 2009

(Review from the author)
it was amazing
I own a copy

When I showed a draft of this book to Sheila Pfeiffer, who became one of my editors, she said, “Why would you even want to write a book that talks about child sexual abuse?” That’s a good question. She thought it was pointless to write such a book, that men (and unfortunately a few women as well) in positions of power to perpetrate such acts are seldom exposed, let alone sufficiently restricted by society so that they don’t repeat offend.

In the book, “Shame, Blame, and Child Sexual Abuse” by Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW and a professor at University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work, is a case study of a man who molested thousands of little girls over a period of nearly fifty years before getting caught. These occurrences all happened within a 25-mile radius of where he lived. How is such a thing even possible in our society?

Another case study in that same book describes a mother whose son molested his daughter. Even after the son confessed to his crime, the mother refused to believe it and excommunicated her own granddaughter, blaming her and the authorities of conspiracy because she believed her own son could never do such a thing. The more respectable and influential a person is, the less likely their abuses will ever be reported, or even if they are, the less likely they will be believed. This coupled with the human tendency towards denial gives perpetrators tremendous power to commit their crimes in our society.

Which do you think is worse, cold-blooded murder, or child sexual abuse? Which one do you think happens more often? The answers to these questions should be obvious. And yet, what do our children constantly see on TV? From a child’s point of view, wouldn’t it be easier for them to conclude that murder is more socially acceptable than becoming involved in something such as incest, even if they are forced? It’s little wonder that many abused children never do tell what has happened to them, even throughout their entire life.

The Safety Factor series explores the thoughts and feelings of a girl who has been sexually abused, and her long road to recovery. Perpetrators of these crimes typically fail to relate to the damage that they’re doing, rationalizing that it’s OK because it doesn’t show up on their victim’s body as physical abuse does. They may even fool themselves into thinking that the child “wanted it”. To help keep these things from happening, everyone needs to know just what the effects of sexual abuse really are.

Another thing many people don’t realize is that severe emotional damage may linger for years after the abuse has stopped, often lasting for the rest of the survivor’s life. But it doesn’t have to be this way. So the approach of this book is twofold. First of all, to help prevent abuse in the first place, and secondly, to give hope and some practical information to those who have suffered abuse.

The bane of sexual abuse isn’t the only theme running through The Safety Factor series, though. Not by any means. A little while ago I got into an online discussion with a man who is a teacher of mathematics and science, of which I know a little something as well. I encountered him on a blog dedicated to faith and spirituality. He was trying to convince those there that they were ignorant fools to have faith in God (in slightly nicer words than that, but only slightly). I pointed out to him that all of science is based on mathematics, and even the mathematicians themselves have shown that mathematics is inconsistent within itself. I was somewhat surprised at the reaction I got from him, which was much like the reaction he was getting from the religionists, though the latter were considerably nicer about it.

If you don’t believe me about the fallibility of mathematics, take a look at this 1985 PBS show on You Tube. I’d recommend watching the whole 8-part thing starting here:

But if you’re in a hurry, here are the relevant portions:


Our society tends to portray science as some infallible god, whose very theories are facts beyond dispute. Seldom is the public presented with views to the contrary. The truth of the matter is that our modern (western) view of the world is largely based on 17th century thinking, with little but minor tweaks being made since then. Very few people realize this, but a good source on the subject is Butterfield’s book: The Origins of Modern Science. Starting The Safety Factor series out as a historical fiction novel at the beginning of the 18th century is one way of introducing the reader to the actual history of our scientific views.

Can I take credit for these “unusual” ways of looking at our universe? No, certainly not. Early on in my life, I had total faith in science much like the teacher mentioned above. During my college education I was fortunate enough to have a string of very good professors who shocked me out of my fallacious understanding. Dr. Brown, my astronomy professor, who taught me (among other things) that scientific theories are merely models of the world around us; that a model is not the same thing as what it represents; and that we should always be on the lookout for better models that more accurately predict reality. Dr. Vauter, my physics and cosmology professor, really threw me for a loop when he made the statement (in private) that, “Science is a religion, complete with doctrines, taboos, excommunications and so forth.” Dr. Albert C. Leisenring, professor of mathematics under whom I studied for an entire year learning Computability and Graph theories, introduced me to Bertrand Russell, Alfred Whitehead and Kurt Godel concerning the contradictions and limitations of mathematics mentioned above. And Rob Showman, one of my early professional mentors, who taught me that, “It’s never too late to start over again from scratch.”

Though all of this is common knowledge in these “ivory tower” areas of the human experience, they are certainly not common knowledge to the public as a whole. Another of the heavy-duty themes running through The Safety Factor series is a laypersons exposition into some of these ideas, and beyond, in the true spirit of science fiction. For instance, is the scientist who believes in the mathematical concept of infinity really any different from the person who believes in God? Or even more fundamentally, might the scientist’s concept of infinity actually be the same thing as belief in God, just labeled with different names so people can fuss and argue with each other about it? And what would happen if the concept of infinity were taken away from both science and God?

If you look at how most people view God, you’re almost immediately forced into two extreme viewpoints (ignoring agnostics, who don’t care anyway): either God doesn’t exist at all, or God is the be-all and end-all of everything in existence. There are serious problems with either one of these extremes, as philosophers and the clergy have been arguing about for millennia. Science can take us all the way back to the first few nanoseconds of the Big Bang, then things fall apart because nobody knows what happened “before” then, which is a problem if God=zero. On the other hand, if God is infinite, that is God must include everything that exists, then God of necessity must include every single atom and person (as in New Age “philosophy”, i.e. we are God) that exists in the universe, and even all evil to boot.

While I was in college, I was also fortunate enough to be able to study psychology in addition to my other studies. Whenever I see something as bipolar as how people view God, alarm bells go off in my head! Not only do people in general tend to adhere one of these two extreme viewpoints concerning God, but even a single person may flip back and forth from one “pole” to the other throughout their lifetime. If you think of these two extreme views as opposite ends on a number line, with zero on one end and infinity on the other, you might well ask, “What about all the space in-between?”

When faced with two extremes, isn’t reality usually somewhere in the middle? Someone who suffers from bipolar disorder is not considered normal or cured when they are at either end of the spectrum, even when at the end of extreme well-being and joy. What is desirable is to be somewhere in the middle, where balance between the extremes prevails. Is it possible to view God in this way, as somewhere in the middle between zero and all-everything? Is it possible that God exists, but is not infinite in the mathematical or religious sense? Ah, this is another thought that’s explored in great detail throughout The Safety Factor series.

Then there is the story itself. I’ve wrapped up all of this and much more in a story that can stand on its own two feet. So if you don’t care about the sociology, psychology, science and mathematics, just enjoy the story as an entity in itself. It’s more or less a modernized, adult version of “Alice in Wonderland”, having a charm all of its own. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it!

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