I think about how much time I have been depressed, not just lately, but over years and years of my life. I think about things I didn’t do because I hated myself too much. I think about things I did do, painful things, because I hated myself so much. These were the consequences, for me, of having been sexually abused at a young age.
But what are the consequences for those who sexually abuse children?
From The Belle Jar, we learn about a case in which a man raped his girlfriend’s daughter almost daily for four years, starting when she was twelve. When she grew up and pressed charges, he plead guilty and got a surprisingly short sentence.
Or a case in Canada, where a Halifax man sentenced to only five years in prison after years of rape and abuse of young girl.
I think about what justice for abusers would really look like. If we think that the girl was raped for four years and will be haunted and hurt by that experience for who knows how many years into the future, what is five years in prison? And what would be better? Because a prison sentence for the perpetrator (though I think it’s deserved) doesn’t begin to make the the survivor whole. When I feel angry, I want to shame the perpetrator. But that’s not justice either; it doesn’t help to make the girl healthy either. I would prefer the idea of some kind of restorative justice. He needs to pay for her therapy and other things she may need for her healing. If that takes the rest of his life, so be it.
I was also interested to read that although we often read that perpetrators were victims themselves, this may not always be the case.
“In a series of three studies, the offenders who claimed they were abused as a child were 67 percent, 65 percent, and 61 percent without the threat of a polygraph. With polygraph (and conditional immunity), the offenders who claimed they were abused as children were 29 percent, 32 percent, and 30 percent, respectively. The polygraph groups reported approximately half the amount of victimization as children as the nonpolygraph groups did.
Nonetheless, the notion that most offenders were victims has spread throughout the field of sexual abuse and is strangely comforting for most professionals.”
― Anna C. Salter, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders
If the “reason” for the abuse (there is no reason for abuse) does not emerge from the childhood wounds perpetrators experienced themselves, then I feel even more shocked. Where does it come from, this right to violate children? How dare they?!?