Okay, so this might be my soap box…
So tonight I watched The Woodsman, which is about a pedophile “Walter” adjusting to life after being released from jail. I don’t know if they are trying to make the audience feel sorry for Walter or if they are showing how he continues to think he is being victimized. At the end, he moves in with this chick, and she knows his offender status. Question: does she realize that she now has some responsibility for making sure he doesn’t mess up? That is one area counselors work on with couples when an offender is released after all. Recognizing cycles, knowing how to disrupt the cycle, and coming up with new coping mechanisms. Either way, she feels sorry for him rather than helping him to break his cycle… and that is a scary thought.
He justified his actions and the actions of other pedophiles by saying the kids “wanted it” or they wouldn’t have done what the adult asked of them. I have heard this same justification from real life pedophiles, so that was definitely true to one line of reasoning they use. Also, in the movie, after Walter’s coworkers found out that he was a sex offender, he went looking for a girl that he knew would be in a park that evening. That is part of the cycle that counseling helps people identify. Offenders are very likely to re-offend when they feel victimized, when they feel depressed, unworthy, or ugly. These feelings are triggers to behaviors. Some people turn to alcohol, sex with strangers, drugs, painting, work, etc. We all have our coping mechanisms. They go straight to what has relieved their feelings before. For Walter, it was an 11-year-old girl. So, breaking the cycle of thoughts turn to feelings and feelings evolve into actions; then these actions may or may not have consequences. Then the cycle continues. The key for many behaviors is to break the cycle between feelings and actions, maybe even at thoughts. Or perhaps the cycle begins with feelings and then thoughts? I suppose it could be argued either way.
Last, Walter watched another pedophile stalk a boy for weeks and never told the police. He didn’t even tell them when he saw the boy was abducted. He merely beat the guy up when he saw the boy get dropped off. This boy looked around 8-years-old. This hits home for a mother of a little boy. His rape could have been prevented if Walter had spoken up. How many times in our own lives have we seen something weird and not reported it? How many times has there been a family secret that no one speaks of? The minority of sexual abuse cases are even reported, and my experiences have confirmed that statement. There are so many long-term consequences of being abused as a child. I’ve heard adults say they are scared they will turn into offenders because they were abused as children because someone told them that all people abused as children will grow to do the same. Not true. Sometimes it happens. That is what happened to my ex- he lived in the victim mindset but grew to become the abuser, but still see’s himself as a victim, similar to Walter in the movie. You can also remain in the victim mindset and continue to be victimized throughout your adult life- abusive relationships, rape, etc. There are many options. This is why I am in love with counseling that focuses on the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Even adults can go through this process and come out understanding themselves from a new perspective and break the patterns that have ruled their lives. If you know a child that has been abused, recommend counseling. Search for local Children’s Advocacy Centers. If you know of adults who were abused, help them find counseling. I am blessed to offer this service for free in my area through my community agency; however, some places may charge. Make sure the counselor has experience with this specific issue and is willing to face it and dive into the pain. Burying the past just makes it a deeper part of yourself. Face your demons. It won’t be pleasant, but it is better than never facing it. Plus, one big factor in how an adult deals with life is whether or not they told someone when their abuse occurred and how did that person respond? Were they supportive? Brush it under the rug? Laugh? Minimize the problem? There are many wounds that can form simply from that important interaction.
And one last thing, always believe your kids if they say abuse occurred. Only 4-8% ever lie about abuse and you know that statistic has to be faulty (how could one even come up with that number reliably?) Anyway, kids will often recant as well (say they lied about it). Why? Because they miss being home. They feel bad for causing trouble. They don’t want to see mom cry. They feel guilty for something that is not their fault at all. Believe your kids. Support them. Don’t interrogate them- they will talk to you if they want to. Let them know they are safe with you. Get them counseling, and if you feel guilty too, get yourself counseling. PTSD is a huge deal for this population. PTSD sometimes looks like ADD in children. When I went through my divorce, I thought my son had ADD. It was actually PTSD from the divorce and subsided over time. One huge hint of child abuse: if your child knows more about something sexual than they should for their age. Another hint: people who have been victimized are more likely to be re-victimized… protect your kids.
***Any questions???*** Feel free to comment. I’m no expert, but I can help you find the resources you need.