For most of us, sexual desire is existing and affirming when reciprocated. Why, then, do some men want sex with people who do not desire them?
When Mr Jackson (not his real name) was asked to explain how he become by recounting the vaious ways he was beaten and tortured by his mother as a child.
As he revealed the stark details of her cruelty, his eyes welled up. For much of his life, he said he took out the rage he felt toward his mother on other women.
“I did the same thing to women because I hated women. I didn’t trust them, not as human being. I didn’t want women to control my life, so I had control them. I had be the dominant one at all the times. That is how i was able to abuse women physically and sexually.”
Mr Jackson was a middle age man who committed a violent sexual assault many years earlier. Following a long prison sentence he was civilly committed to a sex offender treatment facility and was in his fifth year of treatment.
All sexual offenders suffer from severely compromised capacity to empathize with their victims. This was true for Mr Jackson, too. He said that “I wanted her to suffer the same pain i went through… I never knew everything about empathy back then.”
In order to develop empathy and substantially mitigate their risk of re offending, sexual offenders must know how and why they become sexually violent. But first they must acknowledge and take responsibility for their assaultive behavior.
Men who commit sexual assaults need to know what happened in their lives and minds that impaired their ability to emphathize with the people they abused.
Many perpetrators must understand how they were psychologically damaged, stunted and/or traumatized in their early lives-and how they learned to degrade and dehumanize women, men or children.
They need to move beyond feeling humiliated by the public exposure and its consequences like job loss, status, relationships and develop a greater tolerance for feelings of shame and guilt.
The wish to feel powerful is a prime motive for many sexually abusive men. Some very successful men believe they are entitled to have what they want. When they face limits or rejection they may feel impotent and become indignant in response and then coerce sex to restore a feeling of power.
Similarly, marginalized, dis empowered men – often plagued with feelings of powerlessness sometimes coerce sex to feel powerful.
Trauma and its aftermath is frequently a critical influence in the early lives of men who perpetrate sexual offenses.
In the men I evaluate, I almost always discover a devastating childhood history- rampant with sexual abuse, physical violence and emotional neglect – that laid the groundwork for their sexual aggression.
As boys, their displays of emotional vulnerability were ridiculed and sometimes met with physical abuse. Moreover, the betrayal, shame, despair, dread and fury they felt in response to maltreatment were rarely recognized by anyone, including their parents or caretakers.
They suffered alone and had to rely on scant resources to manage overwhelming feelings.
When their parents or caretakers were the perpetrators, it compounded their anguish.
Childhood experience, however no matter how awful never excuses a man’s sexually aggressive behavior nor does it sufficiently explain it. Most men with childhood trauma do not abuse others.
Some remain relatively unscathed by their dark pasts. Many become depressed, addicted to substances or scared of intimacy; other sabotage themselves in works or relationships.
Numerous famous men have reveled childhood histories of abuse recounted the harm it caused. Two examples are Gabriel Byrne, the actor who suffered from alcoholism and depression after he was sexually abused as a child, and Scott brown, the former US senator who was physically, emotionally and sexually abused as a child, and become a repetitive shoplifter until was arrested at age 12.
These men – unlike abuse victims who become sexually abusive – faced their demons and grew more resilient.
As Brown put it in his autobiography, Against All Odds: “Like a fracture bone, I have knit back stringer in the broken places.”
Courage, willpower, empathy and the ability to be emotionally vulnerable play pivotal roles in the choice to not sexually abuse others. Although the mins, experiences and histories of men who commit sexual violence are unique this is true of all perpetrators good treatment can help offenders develop these essential capacities and never perpetrate again.