I am saddened that in today’s world, with all the knowledge we have gained around child sexual assault, that we are still in a place where society blames the victim. Particularly if the victim is a teenaged boy and the perpetrator is a woman.
Child sexual abuse is not a dirty joke.
Child sexual abuse is not a rite of passage. Child sexual abuse is not someone’s private business. It is not a reason to give someone a “high five”. It is not something to celebrate.
If you do not understand the impact of child sexual abuse on a child, I want to share some things that child sexual abuse victims face:
• Drug and alcohol abuse
• Suicidal thoughts and actions
• Flashbacks/ Invasive thoughts
• Nightmares /insomnia
• Depression and mood swings
• Mental health difficulties
• Guilt/ Shame/ Humiliation
• Fear/ Numbness
• Sense of loss, helplessness, isolation and alienation
• Low self–esteem, self-doubt, diminished self-belief
• Difficulties with relationships and intimacy
Male victims often need to add these to that list:
• Pressure to “prove” their manhood
• Confusion over gender and sexual identity
• Sense of being inadequate as a man
• Sense of lost power, control, and confidence in relation to manhood
• Problems with closeness and intimacy
• Sexual problems
• Fear that the sexual abuse has caused or will cause him to become a homosexual or ‘gay’
• Homophobia – fear or intolerance of any form of homosexuality.
(The above information and more can be found at www.livingwell.org)
So what on the list above deserves a “high five”? What on this list should be celebrated?
I hear the comebacks in my head.
• “But what 15 year old boy would not want to have sex with an attractive 30 year old woman?”
• “There is no abuse …. he initiated it.”
• Or my favorite (NOT) “I would have walked around with a smile on my face for a week if I had a teacher who was that attractive and wanted to have sex with me.”
I cannot even begin to tell you how much more trauma, shame and anxiety those type of comments and thoughts put on a child sexual abuse victim.
Let me try to enlighten you by telling you about offenders and offender behaviors … and yes, females can be sexual offenders. Offenders prey on vulnerable children. Those children who have low self-esteem. Those children that others deem liars. Those children who may have mental health issues or may just lack an attentive adult in their life. They prey on children who crave more attention, who need to find ways to feel better about themselves and children who are trusting of the adults in their lives. They prey on children who have vulnerabilities. Do not get me wrong. They will offend on children who do not meet the above criteria, but may not get away with it for very long.
Look at your state laws to see what the age of consent is. In Oregon it is 18 years of age. That means that a child cannot consent to sexual intercourse while under the age of 18.
Let me also tell you this. And this is the part you should pay special attention to. We sometimes forget. Children are not little adults. Even if they look like an adult. Even if they want to be treated like an adult. They are not little adults. And in any situation, no matter what the circumstance …. the adult is responsible for what happens between them and a child. The child is not responsible.
I will figure that someone will be saying right about now that there are situations in which the reverse is true. I can hear the list of times that someone somewhere is rattling off where this is just simply not true. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it allows perpetrators to feel justified in their abuse of a child. The child asked for it. The child wanted it. The child started it.
I don’t buy it. And if this were the case then there would be no child abuse. There would be no reason for laws to exist to protect these children. There is a reason there is an age of consent. There is a reason that there are policies and laws in place that say it is not okay for a teacher, a coach, a parent, a mentor, a therapist, a priest, or a boy scout leader to have sexual contact with a child.
And the last time I checked it did not say “unless said adult was female”.