This blog post is dedicated to my friends that are survivors of abuse from female molesters, and survivors of male abuse.
Like with mental health survivors, abuse survivors face a great deal of stigma associated with their abuse. It has been said often that the stigma’s around things like mental health and abuse cause the survivor more trials then the actual ailments. This is possibly very true with mental health survivors. But with sexual abuse survivors, and survivors of incest the stigma is very difficult, but not the most difficult thing. The most difficult thing in my estimation would be the triggers.
I want to talk about stigma today, mostly I want to talk about the inaccurate stigma around sexual abuse and the way it affects the different genders. Two of the most classic and inaccurate stigmas are that male survivors of sexual abuse always become perpetrators and female survivors of sexual abuse never do. These stigmas are both completely wrong! Let me help you dispel this myth. Because these stigmas cause allot of difficulty for survivors.
For starters lets talk about the sexualization of the victim.
One night I had a difficult dream, my counselor told me this dream was a gift. At the time I was curled tight with negative emotions this dream caused in me, so I did not readily see its gift. But as my counselor talked to me I could see the gift of the dream. In this dream I was seven again. I was an innocent, self consumed, obedient girl who focussed on the physical elements of the world, abstract concepts were not something I dealt with. Now because of this dream, when I look back at me as a little girl, I instinctively know what I am about to tell you. But for you, I may need to go into more detail, for you to know what my dream child taught me.
Children are innocent. The younger they are, the less they know about sex, and sexuality. Their minds are not made to readily grasp sexual concepts and fully understand them. Their immature minds have lots of ways to protect the mind from fully understanding sexual concepts. One of the most notable is dissociation. Because of disassociation my mind has a protective bubble wrap around the majority of my abuse. Thank goodness it does. The little things I remember are overwhelmingly hard. Thank goodness I do not remember everything, and I do not need to know everything, or process it all. My mind continues to protect me. It releases impressions, and memories from time to time in the form of dreams, triggers, and yes, full blown memories. Most often the subconscious only releases these memories to me as I am strong enough to handle them.
When an innocent, of any gender, of any non adult age is sexually abused they are not instantly fully knowledgeable about all things sexual, even if they were fully raped. The victim’s knowledge of sexual things is proportionate to the level of exposure the victim faced. The number one indicator of how much a victim will act out sexually is the level of the victims exposure to sexual abuse both in intensity and frequency. In other words, it takes frequent significant sexual abuses of the victim in order for the innocent to really understand all aspects of sexuality. Even then the innocents have an undeveloped mind, that actually never fully comprehends sexuality. Furthermore the innocent mind protects the innocent from as much exposure as it can through desenstivisation and disassociation.
Don’t let my above words undermine in any ways the significance of the effects of abuse in the child’s life. The effects on a child’s life is all reaching, into every aspect of life. As far as sexualization the effects on the child is proportionate to the level of exposure in terms of intensity and frequency. If a child is exposed once they have a lower level of sexual knowledge than a child who is exposed frequently.
Again I am not in any way diminishing the level of impact one exposure has on a child. Abuse very closely ruins a child’s life. Who can put a measuring stick on ruination. Who can debate over how one form of ruination is any less or more than another. You cannot measure that. The impact is great, and real for every form of abuse.
Sexualization on the other hand can be measured based on the level of the child’s acting out sexually. A child with more sexual exposure will sexually act out more. When a victim acts out from sexual abuse it is most likely the victim will act out on themselves. The victim will act out on themselves sexually and violently, because sexual abuse has violence in it. The level that the victim acts out on themselves is proportionate to the level of the victim’s exposure.
Not all victims become perpetrators. It is not a given that sexual abuse creates sexual abusers of either the male or the female genders. For a victim to become a perpetrator it takes something more than exposure, it takes choice. Most victims are repulsed by all things relating to perpetrators, and anything that reminds them of perpetrators. Most victims, both male and female, will avoid acting in any way that reminds them of a perpetrator. In fact most victims, ESPECIALLY males become hyper aware of their actions, always watching themselves to make sure that they will not be perpetrators. Why do victims respond this way, especially male victims? Because of stigmas.
The social stigma says that if you are a male, and you were victimized, then you will become a perpetrator. For male victims a perpetrator becomes a hidden monster, that they are always afraid might be lurking in their own hidden closets. But like the boogie man, and other imaginary monsters of our childhood, these lurking perpetrators do not exist in most victims. Male survivors are so afraid that the monster is there inside of them, because stigma tells them the monster is there. This actually does harm to male survivors and increases the effects of abuse in their lives. Because they live a life in fear of themselves.
A perpetrator only becomes a perpetrator by choice. Most victims are repulsed by anything that reminds them of the perpetrator, and avoid those things at great cost. But the people who become perpetrators do so by choice. For them they are tantalized intrigued and curious about what the perpetrator world is like. They step into the perpetrator world, one step at a time, slowly changing over time mentally from victim to perpetrator. This is not even close to the same as a victim acting out sexually on themselves. There is a choice that is made when the sexualization crosses over into acting out on other potential victims. Though this is a difficult topic, it seems I need to say more in order to be clear.
When a victim acts out sexually it is about being over sexualized, it is about the victim having too much knowledge and exposure to sexually topics. But the motivation and thought process are different when a perpetrator acts out. When perpetrators act out sexually it is required that there is a victim, they are tantalized and stimulated by dominating, abusing, controlling, taking, stealing, hurting, victimizing and destroying. For a perpetrator sexulization involves acting out violently on someone else, making yourself dominate over someone else. Going this direction at all, sexually, is a choice. It is a choice that is made by the perpetrators. It is not something caused to them because they were victimized. The Perpetrator cannot point to their victimization and use it as an excuse for their actions.
The stigma; victimization causes perpetration in male survivors; exists because perpetrators perpetrate that lie. This lie helps the perpetrator. As long as society believes this lie, society can look on the perpetrator with compassion and pity. Perpetrators want society to believe that their sick addiction is caused by their victimization. Perpetrators want society to believe they are victims. Because this belief causes society to deal with them compassionately. When perpetrators are shown compassion, they see weakness, then they exploit that weakness. When society is busy pittying perpetrators because they are victims they are not being careful to protect themselves, and they are making themselves vulnerable to perpetrators. Perpetrators perpetrate the lie that victimization creates perpetrators. Because it helps them get away with it.
Perpetrators choose to become perpetrators. They chose to take ever increasing steps further down the road of acting out violently, with dominance, sexually on others. It is a choice. Perpetrators choose those actions. Once the perpetrator chooses to act out in a sexually abusive manner they respond to these stimuli like an addiction. Perpetrating becomes a compelling sexual addiction. Soon the perpetrator does not control the addiction, the addiction controls the perpetrator.
A perpetrator can not just say I am sorry, I repent, and be healed. That is impossible. Perpetrators suffer from an addiction to being sexually abusive. A recovered alcoholic is aware of their weakness to alcohol, they change their daily life in order to reduce the temptation to drink. I know you all know perpetrators who claim to be saints, healed and changed by God. And these claims make the naive feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But I am here to tell you that EVERY, yes EVERY perpetrator that claims to be healed and cured by God is lying. They are lying in order to gain your trust and benefit of the doubt. Their main focus is to make them selves look good to people, so people will trust them.
The only healed perpetrator is the perpetrator that humbly admits that he has an addiction. The only healed perpetrator admits that exposure to his addiction may cause his addiction to take over control of him again. The only healed perpetrator actively warns people to help him keep away from his addiction. The only healed perpetrator actively works to avoid anything that reminds him of his addiction. If a perpetrator is saying to the world, through his actions. “Look at me, put me on a pedestal, look how perfect, and humble I am. I am a model citizen.” Then be AFRAID. Because they are doing this to gain your trust. Trust is the #1 thing perpetrators need to victimize. They are grooming everyone around them to trust them so they can have more access.
Perpetrators only option for healing is to fight back the addiction. The ONLY perpetrator who is close to healing is the perpetrator who is managing their addiction by avoiding the temptation.
Well, I went on a tangent there didn’t I.
Not only male victims perpetrate. In fact female perpetrators are an invisible plague. In some states it cannot be claimed that a female raped, because they don’t have the proper body parts to rape. Whether or not it is “legally possible” females do rape. Survivors of female abuse are just as hurt, just as victimized as other survivors. But they struggle with a different stigma, they struggle with a stigma that tries to take away their claim, the claim that they could even be victims at all.
It is not gender that determines if a person will be a perpetrator. Perpetrators are both males and females. It is choice that determines who will be a perpetrator. A perpetrator is someone who is stimulated sexually by abusing other people. Both men and women can become perpetrators and become addicted to abusive sex.
Please do not let stigmas created by perpetrators, to protect perpetrators, cause you to misjudge a victim. Sexual abuse does not make male survivors perpetrators. Perpetrators make themselves, by choosing to take pleasure from abusing. Men and women can both be perpetrators, so don’t misjudge a female perpetrator by trusting them, and don’t misjudge a victim of a female perpetrator by not believing them.
My research and credentials for writing this article come from being raised by an extremely influential and manipulative perpetrator. It comes from years of knowing what was behind the mask, yet seeing the way he manipulates people, and the way people respond to him. My research and credentials also come from the years of therapeutic work, pondering, discussing, real world trial and error, and all around healing, it took to work through my own abuse.
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