Saturday, November 28, 2015

How Being A Victim Affected Offending

Before I start this, I want to acknowledge the myth that victims of child abuse go on to abuse children. I want to acknowledge that it is a myth, and it is not true a majority of the time. The estimates I have seen put it around 40%- meaning that 40% of abusers were abused before. I also want to acknowledge that my choices, as I have said and will continue to, are my own. None of this changes that. The point of this is to continue processing how my own abuse affected me, affected my offending, and how I can grow and learn from it rather than let it hold me down.

The fact is, I was sexually abused multiple times. When I was three, I wet myself and a daycare provider took me into a room, pulled down my pants, cleaned me up, fondled me, and performed oral sex on me. When I was seven or eight, a local teenager exposed himself to me. It was also normal for my parents to bathe with me, and for me to see them naked- my mother in particular. My mother also applied lotion to my penis when I was 12. It was also common for my mother to tell dirty jokes- even when I had no idea what they meant. I heard from a young age how my tongue would make a woman very happy someday. The only bit of dating advice I got from my mother was how to hug a girl- to offset your legs to hers, so that her leg is rubbing my privates. All of those are considered child sexual abuse. They were traumatic for me, affected my beliefs, and messed with my idea of boundaries.

I believed for a long time, up until about two years ago, that it was good and healthy for a child- any child- who had wet themselves or wet a diaper, to have their privates wiped down. My belief was that if it did not happen, they would get a rash. I believed this because of the first time I was abused. I also got rashes whenever I wet myself, but in retrospect, I think that was due to my own response of scratching myself.

It was that very belief that played into my offending, and the first time I saw my victim naked. We had gone to a movie, and he had wet himself during the movie. I insisted that he clean himself up for fear he would get a rash. You might say that if I had never seen him naked, I never would have acted, but it is impossible to know if that is true or not. I think it is true, because prior to that, my sexual fantasies involved him as much as they did any other child I knew and they were just that, fantasies. I never had the urge to act on them until I saw my victim naked, and that first time also led me to seek out seeing him naked in other settings.

The lack of boundaries, which is what all of the other abuse involves, was far more damaging by comparison. What I heard growing up from my parents, particularly my mother, was that my boundaries did not matter. I could not say no. I had no privacy, and they modeled that they had no privacy. There were other things, like as a teenager having my door removed from my room as punishment for things- the remark being that privacy is a privilege and can be taken away. Combine that lack of boundaries with the lack of social awareness from having asperger's, and you have a recipe for me not even knowing that boundaries are healthy things that most people have, keep, and enforce.

It is hard for me to comment on just how the beliefs about privacy and boundaries affected me, because I am still in the process of practicing boundaries. The easiest way for me to practice them right now is at work, because it is easy and transparent: Hey boss, I need to be done at this time tonight. I think if I got input from my friends, they could identify many situations in which I ignored boundaries. I can think of a number offhand, also, like being unable to take correction in certain situations, or offending someone without having any awareness that I had done so unless they directly told me they were offended.

My abusing my victim was the clearest example of boundary violations: Not only was I touching him sexually, I was also spending time with him- even when he very clearly wanted and needed to be alone. I would hug him- even when he was not receptive to it. Asperger's or not, the lack of awareness around boundaries made these very asperger's traits all the stronger, and all the more difficult for my victim to endure.

These days, I am very clear with my support people that sometimes I need things spelled out and if I do something that upsets them, to address it with me directly. It helps me practice being aware of when I am stepping on someone's boundary or affecting people in ways I do not intend to. A big part of my history was the boundary and privacy violations, and they had a significant effect on me. The comments from my mother, in particular, had a significant effect on me and for years I considered them normal.

There are other things, related to the abuse, that I have identified: I used to say I loved working with children because of their innocence, and what I meant by that is that I thought working with children helped cleanse me of my lack of innocence. It was not that I was preying on their innocence or anything sinister, only that I thought I was making up for what I thought I lacked by working with them. It is difficult to explain the concept in words, other than to say I thought that working with kids saved me from myself.

I am also a perfectionist and I am very hard on myself, I blamed myself for normal childhood things and blamed some of the abuse on myself. I told my mother about my rash when I was 12 and asked her to put lotion on it- that does not negate the fact that she was the adult and should have known it was inappropriate, and I, being 12, could not have known better. Prior to entering treatment, I never took sick days, even when I had a job where I got sick days. Some time ago, I began reading through the book, "Victims No Longer: The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse", and I have yet to muster the courage to read the chapter on perfectionism. I will get to it someday.

Again, none of this is to say the abuse is the fault of my abusers. The point is for me to continue to identify the ways I was abused and how they affected- and still affect- my beliefs and attitudes. Hopefully, the point is also that a reader can understand more about what sexual abuse is and is not, and how something that is not illegal- like the sexually charged conversations my mother had with me- can still be sexual abuse. For most of this, awareness is most of the battle. I also never received any help with the abuse prior to treatment and after the offending, which was also a factor. That is why it is important to identify and help children who have been abused- because without it, the beliefs and the effects have no one to guide where they end up.

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