Friday, 8 March 2013

Arguments used to discredit survivors

There are a number of standard arguments used by predators and their lawyers to discredit those who accuse them sexual abuse. This is my response to them.

He (the accuser) is troubled/emotionally unstable. You cannot take him seriously.

There are two responses to this, both of which are often true for any specific survivor.

First, it is well known that predators often target troubled children. The quite boys, the outsiders and the misfits are simply more susceptible to grooming and easier to isolate from their peers. The lonely child is much more likely to respond to perceived kindness and acceptance from the predator. How many survivors have echoed the statement that "he made me feel special"?

Secondly, and just as well know, is the fact that sexual abuse causes various types of emotional and behavioural problems. Lack of self-esteem, inability to relate to other in a healthy, age-appropriate way, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, self-injury and inappropriate anger are just some of the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse. Survivors might even develop pathological mental illnesses, like PTSD and BPD. In short - yes, it is very likely that the "accuser" is troubled and emotionally unstable. This should be seen as proof that he was abused, rather than proof that he isn't a credible witness.

He is only after making a quick buck.

This would be laughable if it wasn't so cruel. If any money is made from a sexual-abuse law-suit, it is hardly "quick". I can't help but wonder if the people who say this have ever realised that there are far quicker and easier ways to make money than to sit through gruelling and traumatic cross-examinations for days, week, sometimes even months or years.

Why only now, years later? Why did he not say anything when this was happening?

There are many reasons why abuse victims don't speak up. These reason can include, but are not limited to -

  • Being threatened by the perpetrator
  • Fear of not being believed (this is a valid fear, and many boys aren't believed)
  • Shame and guilt, being convinced that he did something wrong to cause the abuse
  • Fear of ridicule because boys aren't supposed to be victims.
  • Stigma - abused boys are often accused of being gay, future perpetrators, etc.
  • Uncertainty about whether or not it was abuse. This is especially relevant if the perpetrator was female.
  • The victim may dissociate during the abuse, retaining no memory of what happened. These memories sometimes return years, even decades later.

The average age at which men finally uncover suppressed memories and/or find the courage to speak up about being abused as children, are between 30 and 40 years old. It is sad that once again, a very common occurrence that actually points towards the accusations being authentic, is used to discredit the victim.

He's story keeps changing, obviously he is making it up on the spot.

When suppressed memories start to surface, they are unclear and incomplete. As more memories surface the survivor's understanding of what exactly happened becomes clearer and clearer. The very experience of being cross-examined in court may cause new memories to surface, creating the appearance that the story is changing. In actual fact, it isn't changing as much as it is evolving and becoming clearer and more complete.

In the case of a mother accusing a father of abusing their children during divorce proceedings: Why now that we are divorcing? She just wants full custody/to alienate me from my children.

This one I will answer with question - is she accusing him because they are divorcing, or did she file for divorce because she knows her allegations to be true? From

Child abuse allegations in the context of family law proceedings have been analysed in four Australian studies. These examinations find that allegations rarely are made for tactical advantage, false allegations are rare, the child abuse often takes place in families where there is also domestic violence, and such allegations rarely result in the denial of parental contact.

Next time you read about a case of child sexual abuse and these arguments are used against the accuser in an attempt to discredit him, please see them for what they are. They are cruel lies, used by perpetrators who must know very well that the allegations are true, to reinforce the message that the victim is weak, pathetic, guilty and not worthy of being listened to. They take the effects of past trauma and use them to inflict even more trauma on an already battered victim - the epitome of cruelty!

The saddest part is how often it works...

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