There are survivors who have also victimized others. This may have been a single episode that happened during childhood or adolescence, but often the guilt and shame associated with this have erected a barrier to their recovery. Assisting the individual in acknowledging what happened is a critical part of recovery. It may have been many years or decades since the incident, but he still needs to take responsibility for what happened and to focus on understanding his behavior.
In the beginning I fought with anyone who suggested I help sex offenders. If we can help to empower the powerless, we have helped to make the world a safer place for everyone.
The first time I spoke to a group of sex offenders I was reminded of Scott Peck's book, People of The Lie. He said, "At one and the same time, the evil (perpetrators) are aware of their evil and are desperately trying to avoid the awareness...one of the characteristics of evil is its desire to confuse." No one can concentrate upon offending behavior, or even the idea of offending behavior and remain unaffected.
Certainly as a child and even in adulthood I was frightened of offenders, but I discovered that like me, they were more frightened of authentic power than they were of anger and judgment. Authentic power comes from honoring our legacy and healing our trauma. It's the only example of constructive and healthy power for me.
What is the value of helping offenders? The potential is there for this effort to be of benefit to all involved. Among the real and potential benefits are the power to be able to confront offenders without being re-victimized; the power experienced speaking on behalf of those who can't speak for themselves; the opportunity to place the blame where it truly belongs and not have to bear the burden of guilt any longer; and the opportunity to impact the perpetrators distorted thoughts which they develop to convince themselves that their sexually abusive behavior is not harmful to the victims. Our ability to be able to exercise this power reflects our courage to heal and speaks to our recovery.
Consider your experience. What if you were able to hear men speak openly with courage and without shame about sexual abuse when you were young? How would that experience have affected the outcome of your life? Our voice can provide a healthy and appropriate model of power, a power that may make a significant contribution to victim prevention efforts.
Our continued silence contributes not only to the powerlessness of offenders, but the welfare of society too. Because most of us did not act out our powerlessness by becoming sex offenders in adulthood, we are not heroes. Our years of silence posed a risk to others and to ourselves. As we grew older we found ways to express the grief and rage of our silence and innocent people suffered.
Many of us denied our feelings and beliefs and our rigid thinking protected us from the truth...that we too were perpetrators. Sometimes our perpetration was obvious. It was expressed in the statistics on domestic violence, crime, addiction and divorce. More often it was hidden in low self-esteem and we emotionally abused and neglected loved ones and ourselves. In recovery we learned that the emotional abuse suffered at the hands of our perpetrators was more damaging than the exploitation of our body. Our abuse of others was just as profound and life altering.
The change in my attitude toward offenders occurred when I realized how powerless they really are and how we were more alike than different. Behind our abusive behavior is a powerless and often abused child.
My position regarding sexual offenders is and will always be no excuses. Never. Ever. I am a survivor and I have been an advocate for the male survivor movement for many years. I also work with sex offenders.