Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sexual Abuse Victim To Perpetrator Expressway?

While I don't believe that a perpetrator of sex crimes should get excused because that person was previously the victim of a sex crime, I'm also troubled by the reasoning behind the sentencing of this case.

"There is a long pattern of victims becoming perpetrators themselves," he [Judge Thomas Marcelain] said before sentencing Dodgens to 15 years in prison.

Even if we knew that a high percentage of convicted sex offenders have some history of being sexually assaulted or abused that doesn't tell us anything about the percentage of victims who never go on to become sexual perpetrators.

This judge's conclusion has the potential to encourage people to keep their sexual abuse secret for the fear that they will automatically be seen as highly likely to sexually abuse or rape.

What this common history among convicted sex offenders may be telling us is just how pervasive sexual abuse really is and how poorly we've dealt with this pervasive problem. This pattern also reveals how dangerous it is for people to treat victims as if what happened was their fault. If those victims learn this lesson too well, then their sexual offending becomes the fault of their victims.

That means that victim blaming does more than add damage to the original crime, it can contribute to the continuation of a cycle of violence.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 2:57 PM   4 comments links to this post


At June 12, 2007 9:54 PM, Blogger Sicily Sue said...

Ironic that you posted this today. I just posted about being sexually abused as a child.

"After the rape I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the phenomenon of victim blaming. Now in the face of sexual harassment I have seen it take another form in sympathy for the perpetrator.

It crossed my mind today... that when I was molested at the age of 5 by my daycare center teacher... and I told my mom what he did to me... we had to go down to the police station to make a report.

I cried the whole way because I thought they were going to put me in jail. I used to chalk that up to being a confused kid. Or was I? Now I cannot help but wonder....Was I picking up on the message from our culture that the victim is to blame? It was clear to me then that not only was I to be concerned that no one would believe me... but that if they did believe me... it would have somehow been my fault.

This pathetic error in human behavior must be remodeled...."

Also... I had been told as a child that people who were sexually abused stood a higher chance of abusing...

I suffered for many years thinking that some evil side of me I had no control over would someday appear. I thought twice about having kids and worried if family members were afraid to leave me alone with their kids.

I lived with these secret horrible fears. I knew I would NEVER harm anyone but "THEY" had told me it was a risk for "PEOPLE LIKE ME".

All those years... I believed "THEY" might know something I didn't. How sad.

It wasn't until after my rape... in counseling... that I learned how dangerous it is to listen to them. No one can tell anyone how they will react after being violated. We all handle it in our own way. Some may repeat the abuse cycle. Some won't. I know I won't... but I wish I could get back all those years of worrying that I had a monster lurking inside.
The messages we send to victims need to be more cautious. What is true for one will not be true for others.

...and I am sorry but… never should an abusers past abuse be considered in the legal setting. If he did it, he should pay for it.... otherwise doesn't it send the message that it is ok. That it is ok to have no self control because your life is rough. If that is all the excuse I need… I could do whatever I want for the rest of my life and not have to answer to a single law.

Whew....... Obviously a hot topic for me...

At June 12, 2007 11:29 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Sicily Sue, what a terrible fear to live with. As more people talk about these unintended messages we may spare other people excess suffering. Being raped or sexually abused is bad enough.

At June 13, 2007 9:11 AM, Anonymous Scott said...


This stigma is particularly strong for male survivors, and it doesn't help that so many criminals are themselves victims of child abuse.

I have personally not had any experience with the "survivors go on to abuse" myth, but I have spoken to other survivors who have experienced it. I think the whole thing stems from the belief that there is some sort of "vampire" effect that results from rape.

I think the real damage that is being caused by this myth is that for some survivors, there is indeed a danger that they may go on to abuse other people. However, this danger can be reduced or eliminated by getting these survivors into therapy. The real danger of the "abuser myth" is that it is probably preventing these survivors from getting help, for fear that they will be branded as perverts.

At June 13, 2007 9:44 AM, Blogger Seeing Eye Chick said...

Oh no it gets better. In some DHS cases, a female victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse is put on a sort of watch list. Because its believed that she will pick a pedophile or abusive spouse, and repeat the pattern.

There are trends that suggest this is a problem however, the assumption is or at least the picture is painted {similar to the one above} that all abuse survivors pose an inherent danger to their children.

How would that affect your legal standing? Your credibility. It totally dismisses the idea that an abuse survivor can rise above this on any level and become a contributing member of society and/or a good parent.


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