Friday, January 27, 2012

The Victimization of Victims

Here I am, with another blog post.  I guess, on average, I post maybe once a month, which isn't a lot.  I'm just not one of those people that blog every day or on some kind of regular basis.   I don't want to waste your time -- or mine -- with small talk... you know...  blah, blah, blah.  I never wanted this to be a blahg.  I gotta have something to say. 

I have been thinking about this topic for quite some time. That's what I do. Something gets stuck in my head and sits there, simmering, or maybe festering, like a splinter in my finger that I spend days just hoping it will fall out. It won't fall out. I know I have to do what I don't want to do, and dig it out with a needle.

OK, so this is not that graphic, but I know that this thought just won't go away until I deal with it and talk about it, so here goes.

So I've been advocating for changes to sex offender laws, for what, the last five years, and prior to that, I've been sitting on the side of sex offenders since meeting my husband in 2001.

It's like football. You have two teams: Sex Offenders vs. People Who Hate Sex Offenders. They are battling it out on the field, trying to get possession of the ball and make a touchdown. I don't like football, but there I am, sitting in the bleachers rooting for my team, the underdogs. Who is on the other side rooting for the other team? Victims, that's who. I hate that word. I hate that there even has to BE victims, but there are. And, since Americans have become so victim-oriented, their numbers are growing by the thousands, daily. Victims of everything from boiling hot coffee in the McDonald's drive-thru to victims of horrific crimes such as forced rape and murder. Almost every American is a victim of something.

So, there they are, thousands of them, millions of them, all sitting in the bleachers on the other side chanting their cheers and rooting for their team, which appears to be winning. And, all the while I am rooting for my team, a small still voice says, "they want you to sit on the other side, too." Because, as I have shared before, I am also a victim of child sex abuse.

Only thing is, I'm not. Not any more. And that, my friends, is my point. Ever since my appearance on the Dr. Drew show, when he so luridly suggested I was attracted to pedophiles (excuse me while I vomit), I have been looking within myself and wondering why on earth would someone -- a supposed doctor -- suggest such a thing? That statement really struck a nerve because it was just so plainly WRONG.

Looking back upon my young life and those tender years while I was being molested by a family member, I never once thought of myself as a victim. Not then, and not any time since, and yet, in truth, I was, I really was. I have to acknowledge that fact. I believe the reason I felt I wasn't a victim was because I encouraged the abuse. It wasn't the sex I was seeking, but the closeness and intimacy that comes with it, and as wrong as it was, the relationship I had with the adult who committed the molestation was one out of love. He never forced me, he always approached our encounters with love and affection -- something that was lacking in my life and something that I desparately wanted and needed.

Was I groomed? Yeah, I guess I was. As an adult, I can see that. I never really had considered that before now. I don't think he intentionally set out to groom me and pursue me sexually, I think it was just something that happened, but the bottom line is he should have known better and should not have done it.

After I told my mother about the nature of our relationship, she promptly sent me to counseling. She did NOT report the abuse to the police (thank God) and she did everything she could to ensure that there would be no more sexual contact between me and this person, which was 100% successful. What she did was, in my mind no doubt whatsoever, the absolute BEST thing she could have done for our family. No other course of action would have rendered better results.

Most sexual abuse victims are abused by family members or someone close to them. If the victims are given a choice as to the method to end the abuse, they would likely choose to handle the abuse within the family, in a positive manner, or with a professional counselor. Perhaps they are traumatized enough by the abuse OR by it being discovered, that they fear that punishing the abuser and sending them to prison would result in even more trauma. They don't want their family ripped apart; or their lives turned upsidedown. All they want is the abuse to stop, to get help, and learn to heal. Counseling for both the abuser and the abused is truthfully all that is really necessary in most cases. I am so grateful that this was the course of action for my own abuse.  Boy, do I consider myself lucky.  If law enforcement considered the feelings of the victim, there wouldn't be so much fear to report the abuse, and let's face it:  Reporting the abuse, even if only to a family member, is the first step in making it stop.

Now, in instances of violence or forced sexual contact, that would surely warrant a more serious approach, and if it would make the life of the abused better, prison would certainly be a viable option. But, often, too many times, victims are not asked for their opinions or questioned in any way. I know of many cases of sex offenders who are now married to their victims, and how those victims declare as loudly as they can that they are NOT a victim, and yet no one listens to them.

Why are we afraid to speak to victims and to listen to them? Here, we have the best resource at our fingertips to determine how best to handle the offender. If a victim is hurt or angry, then that should be factored into the punishment of the offender. If the victim is declaring consensual contact and/or how they love the offender, etc, then why can't that be considered in the case against the offender? Why does every person whoever engaged in consensual contact be punished the same as a violent offender?

Instead of talking to these victims, we tiptoe around them like they are fragile antique china, ready to shatter into a million pieces at the mere mention of their sexual abuse. Why? Because we don't want to victimize victims.

If offenders are made to undergo a lengthy process of assessments, evaluations and questioning, why aren't the victims?  If the case goes to court, victims (unless too young to comprehend) should be asked to testify.  After all, the accused person's life is on the line, and they should be afforded every chance to prove their innocence.  If victims were questioned, perhaps more false allegations would be discovered.  Too many offenders are rotting in prison for something they did not do.  If false accusers realize the seriousness of their allegations, they might think twice before reporting false accusations.

No system would be perfect, I am sure many victims truly are victimized by being questioned, but even Jaycee Lee Dugard healed enough to tell her story.  If she can do it, others can, too.  Telling their story can be a part of the healing process, and every story needs to be considered.

If a victim is truly traumatized by the abuse, then sure, I understand the hesitancy to talk with them about it, but many are not. Many do not consider themselves victims at all. Many, such as myself, want to scream to the world, "I am NOT a victim." Some were, once, but are not NOW. Some never were victims at all. Their voices are silenced as if they are just as fragile as victims who have suffered the worst forms of abuse or violence.

Being a victim does not define who they are or who they will be come. Just because someone was a victim once does not mean that they have to spend the rest of their lives as a victim. I am tired of people telling me that I am a victim and being made to feel like I am still a victim. That is total bullshit. I WAS a victim. I own it. You can't change it. I am NOT a victim now! And because I am NOT a victim now, I will never believe that once someone is a sex offender, they have to BE a sex offender the rest of their life. I believe that they WERE a sex offender. Being a sex offender does not have to define what a person is, who they are, or who they will be in life. The notion that "once a sex offender, always a sex offender" is the biggest load of crap since "once a victim, always a victim".

I wonder about my husband's victim. I don't know much about her, admittedly, and here lately, I've been thinking I would like to talk with her. I want to know how she feels, how she REALLY feels. Does she feel like a victim? In the past, I've always felt like she just wanted to be left alone and I assumed that it was because she was embarrassed about what happened. The stories I've heard by other members of the community that knew her then have not painted her in the best light. I was told she had something of a reputation. I guess I did, too, at that young age, and so I have always identified with her in that way... but, maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe there are other reasons for her wanting to be left alone.

Maybe her story is completely different than my husband's, and if that is the case, then I would be totally open to listening to her. Never before have I been interested in listening to her. But, then, I never felt the need or never felt ready. I feel open to it now, no matter what she would have to say. I want to know if she considered herself a victim and if she still considers herself a victim. I want to tell her it's OK if she does. I want to tell her that I would understand, and I do believe I would understand...  I feel like I want her voice to finally be heard, good or bad.

But, meanwile, just don't label me a victim.

When you label someone a victim, then you are expecting them to feel like a victim. And, if they don't want to feel like a victim, then you are making them feel like something is wrong with them, something like "being attracted to pedophiles" for example. When you label someone a victim, then THAT is the thing that is victimizing them all over again. Every time someone says to me "I am sorry you are a victim", they are victimizing me again. Before they said it, I WAS a victim. After they said it, they make me a victim again. I am sure I am not the only one that feels like I am being victimized by people telling me I am a victim.

I have never felt more victimized in my whole life than I have in these last few years. If you want to think of me as a victim, then consider me a victim of these stupid laws instead. I AM a victim to these laws, in many, many ways. Many of my rights as an American citizen have been violated, not by my husband, but by the American legislation. THAT'S what gets my feathers ruffled; my hackles raised. I have never been convicted of any crime, but I am treated as a criminal.

OK... so go ahead, label me a victim.  I'm still gonna root for the same team.


  1. You brought out so many good points, Lynn! I only wish there was some way we could get our lawmakers, our prosecuting attorneys, our judges, and yes, even Sheri Flynn & Paula Stitz :) to read this blog!

  2. It might be not a bad idea to start a new movement: We are not the victims! If to follow " officially excepted by main-stream psychology" assumptions that any sexual interest of an older person towards a yanger person (3 years the difference in age ) is a sign of pedophilia, (All those stories of "Romeo and Juliet". She is 15 he is 18 and he goes to Prison as Sex Offender or gets Civil Commitment for telling to psychologist that he had sexual fantasies about yang children when he was 13) and an attraction of yang girls to older men a sign of the past sexual abuse, which needs to be reported to police, we might need to think about building the concentration camps, that many people might feet in this category. This assumptions are "criminal and irresponsible " because they hurt people and not only those man labeled as S.O. and there families, but also american taxpayers they hurt everybody, accelerating hate and fear in the society. The Hate and Fear don't cure anybody the Love and Forgiveness does. And those "great professionals" teach us what to feel, who to love, who to put in prisons, who is curable who is not without any personal responsibility for outcome of those evaluations. In old days the church was teaching us: who is a witch and who is a holy man. We all know outcome of it.

    1. As a former SO therapist, I can tell you that we did not do risk assessments based on throwing them in the river to see if they float like witches! Most of the tests and questionnaires done for risk assessments are emirically sound. I had no problem giving someone in prison a low risk assessment so they could get out and go back to society if they really were low risk!!! And I felt a LOT of responsibility in my reports to both the offender and to the public. I want to keep society safe but also don't want people locked up that have been rehabilitated. I may be the exception to the rule but what you say here of "great professionals" did not apply to me.

  3. Wow! is all I have to say to you. I am also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I in no way invited my abuse. I was between the ages of 3 until 16. Your response is very similar to what pedophiles and their supporters believe. No I'm not calling you a pedophile. I am just saying that pedophiles and their supporters feel that children can consent to sex. Do you believe your 9 year old can consent to sex? I hope not. You are doing a grave injustice to other survivors by making them be held liable in their own abuse. Those who abused me were pedophiles including my own mother. Most sexual abuse is incest and to handle it inside the family system is a sure way to protect the sex offender. This way it is dealt with without the person being held accountable for the abuse they inflicted on the child. Incest is also opportunistic pedophilia. Where the pedophile makes the choice to abuse his or her family members. It's one of the ways that pedophilia goes through families for generations. I traced it back in my family 4 generations. The only reason I couldn't go further is no one was alive further back for me to interview. How can you feel that a person shouldn't be held accountable for harming a child? I am not talking about anything to do with your husband. I am strictly discussing your comment that most child sexual abuse survivors would want the situation handled with in their family. These types of things being handled inside families is why it has taken so long for child sexual abuse and the effects of child sexual abuse to be taken seriously. Please don't be part of a system that pushes back child sexual abuse into the closet. There are a lot of people who would love to see that. There are a lot of children who wouldn't. Rosie

  4. Sorry I forgot to let you know that I copied and pasted my comment to my blog. Rosie

  5. As a professional counselor, be careful of telling people to seek counseling if they don't want the word outside of the family. If the offender is a "caregiver", which even means babysitter or "anyone IN the home" we are madated to report it to DCFS. There have been several occasions that I did not want to do so. I wanted the offender and the victim to receive treatment but did not want to tear up the family or have the victim angry with me for reporting but I could lose my license if I don't. And sadly, the only way usually for the offender to get decent treatment is through the courts.

  6. I totally agree with you about the criminal bit. My husband and I LOVE to go camping, hiking, and bicycling. It's what we do for vacations and weekends and I especially love trying out new bike trails all over that were old railways. Now a law has been passed that offenders cannot be on ANY park or STATE district property. There goes most of the bike trails in my state, hiking at the state parks, and most of the camping. We joined a gym that was partially owned by the park district. That is how we found out about the law. When the cop showed up at my door 2 weeks after we joined with a letter stating his membership has been revoked because he was a RSO. So now I am stuck with a year's membership to a gym without my husband. These laws affect everyone involved in the offender's life, not just them. Great point, Lynn!!!

  7. Anonymous, you bring up a very good point. I know of many counselors who are in the same exact situation that they are required by law to report any phsyical or sexual abuse to the authorities, otherwise known as "mandated reporting". SOSEN has published articles on this very topic and for the counselors we have spoken with, this is a very difficult thing. How many families forgo counseling out of fear that their loved one will be sent to prison when all that they believe they need is some good counseling? Back in the late 70s, when my mother sent me to counseling for two years, my counselor was not required to report the abuse and chose not to. Once I assurred her that the abuse had ended, she saw no reason to make matters worse for me when all I wanted was a normal life with my family members. If my counselor had been forced to report the abuse, I shudder to think what would have happened. The outcome could have been very different and potentially much worse for me and my family.

    Thank you for bringing this to light!

  8. However, I just thought of something!!! If the victim wanted counseling and refused to say who the offender was, DCFS wouldn't take the call. If they have no information to go on and the child is no longer in danger, it would be okay!!! I've seen plenty of kids who reported to me but the offender lived out of state or didn't know where he was or didn't tell me who he was and I didn't call.