Archive for November 25th, 2008

*** trigger warning – This topic might be upsetting to sexual abuse survivors. **

On my blog entry entitled Orgasm during Rape or Other Form of Sexual Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

Please do NOT take this question the wrong way. What happened to us is horable and god forbid it ever happen to anyone again, but here is my question. Has anyone ever thought about abusing someone either willingly or unintenionally, emotional, physical, or even sexual? What is the statistic for repeating the abuse after becoming an adult? Just wondering. Bless you ALL – Jason

Let me start by addressing the statistics. The highest statistics I have seen are from ChildHelp:

1/3 of abused and neglected children will eventually victimize their own children – Childhelp

That number is higher than I have seen elsewhere, perhaps because it is including all forms of abuse. I do believe that certain types of abuse, such as comparatively mild emotional abuse, are much more likely to be passed down than other forms of more severe abuse.

As for sexual abuse statistics, those are much lower:

Roughly one in 10 male victims of child sex abuse in a U.K. study later went on to abuse children as adults … Twenty-six of the 224 sex abuse victims (12%) later committed sexual offenses, and in almost all cases their victims were also children. Abused children who came from families where violence was common were more than three times as likely to become abusers as were those who experienced maternal neglect and sexual abuse by females. – Do Sexually Abused Kids Become Abusers?

Depending upon which study you use, 67-90% of child abuse survivors do not become abusers themselves.

As for thinking about abusing a child, there is a big difference between having the sickening thought cross your mind, but then pushing it away, and actually acting upon it. I have written about having horrible dreams about abusing a child. I was horrified by the dreams, but my therapist assured me that this was normal. The dreams were not about my desire to harm a child but, instead, my brain’s way of trying to make sense of the abuse. Even in the best of circumstances (as set up in my dreams), the action was still vile and horrible.

I believe that abusing a child serves the same function as other compulsions, such as self-injury or eating disorders. The big difference is that, with other compulsions, the abuse survivor is using her own body to manage the pain, whereas abusers are using a child’s body. That is never, ever okay.

Many child abuse survivors (and perhaps even those who never suffered trauma) might have a fleeting thought of doing harm when their patience is being taxed. For example, I have heard many new mothers joke about fantasizing about throwing a colicky baby out of the window. Of course, they would never, ever do this. A fleeting thought is just a fleeting thought. However, when a person begins to dwell on those thoughts, that is when it becomes a problem.

Being a child abuse survivor is never a justification for harming a child. I, myself, told my therapist that I would kill myself if I found out that I was blacking out and harming my child in the same way that my mother did to me. He assured me that I wasn’t, and he knew this in part because of how strongly I felt about protecting children.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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