Similarities between victims and offenders

By Elden Phillip Owens

As a victim/survivor of sexual abuse, I have observed some notable similarities between myself and many sex offenders. This is an area that I have wanted to write about for some time now. I must also relate to the reader that this article is based upon my opinion, and may not hold true for every survivor. Also, this is not meant to offend or negate the feelings of other survivors.

When I began my journey into recovery some four years ago, I began with the intent on healing from my past hurts. That is when I started noticing similarities between some of the survivors and offenders. The first similarity I observed was how many victims/survivors perceive themselves as a “piece of meat”—not quite human. It appears to me that offenders view their victims the same way.

The second observation that I noticed was that both survivors and offenders experience high levels of guilt and shame. The survivor, because he or she was not able to stop the offender, or because he or she may have experienced some form of physical pleasure during the offense (i.e., erection, ejaculation, etc.). Or, perhaps, because the survivor perceives that he or she “was willing”. This is exactly what offenders will use to their advantage for grooming and silencing a victim.

The sexual offender will convince him/herself that what he or she is doing is okay, even though deep down he or she knows it isn't. That is why the offender feels some form of guilt.

Another similarity between both the survivor and offender is low self-esteem. The childvictim usually craves attention and affection, and he or she may be vulnerable, and unable to see the trap that is being laid. Even if they do, victims convince themselves that it is not what it seems. The offender, of course, also uses this to his or her advantage. The offender also suffers from low self-esteem in the area of being intimate with an adult.

Many times, both the survivors and offenders have poor social and coping skills. They both depend heavily on denial. The victim/survivor tends to minimize the effects of the abuse later in life. Generally, male victims will have a very difficult time dealing with the abuse because of the widely held belief that males “are strong” and can “get over it”.

Many survivors and offenders suffer from poor communication skills. They may also have a difficult time with the expression of feelings and needs, as well as trusting others.

One of the most significant similarities, as I see it, is the use of survival skills and defense mechanisms. This would include the use of silence and secrecy, because neither would want anyone else to know. Trusting their own thoughts, feelings, and actions may be very difficult for both the survivors and offenders. Some will become aggressive, while others will become passive. And yes, some will go on to offend. I have also learned that it is not about sex, although this is one component. The others are power, control, self-preservation to some extent, and humiliation. I am certain that others would agree and still yet others will disagree. At least we are trying to come up with a solution that will work for all. After all, are we not trying to stop abuse? I think if we could stop looking at it as a he/she and start looking at it as a human problem, we will be one step closer to finding a solution. For any comments and or questions please feel free to contact me at namaste5@bellsouth.net. I would also like to add that if anyone knows of groups that could benefit from hearing a male victim/survivor speak please feel free to contact me. Thanks for your time.