For many years, all across the United States, priests and other authorities of the Catholic Church have been embroiled in abuse and assault charges involving minors. Now, charges of assault and abuse against defensive football coach Jerry Sandusky of Penn State have once again shown the vulnerability of youngsters when in the care of an authority figure connected to a respected institution. And, at Penn State like the Catholic Church, we know that the abusers were enabled by higher-ups who, in some way, looked the other way or covered-up for them.
Women, girls and boys are victims of sexual assault and abuse. Adult males make up nearly 100% of the perpetrators. Females account for 90% of the victims, males for 10%. For too long, homosexual men have been demonized as the main perpetrators of this type of immoral and criminal behavior. Statistics show that that is absolutely not true.
Society has learned that the force which drives sexually-based assault and abuse is not easily categorized, understood or rooted out. What is understood is that this force is not driven by sexual need; men turn their physical and manipulative powers into a destructive force. The most horrific and unjustified exercise of this force is when it is unleashed against children.
What higher standards of conduct or educational and spiritual goals could there be that are not already cornerstones of institutions like the Catholic Church and Penn State? Some men gain power and begin to act as if they are more valuable than the institutions they serve. However, institutions have no souls, even though the abusers use them as a firewall and their colleagues as enablers. These institutions must be held accountable and must not be protected as if they are human. (United States Supreme Court, are you listening?) Some men run amok, damaging both their human wards and the institutions they serve. To paraphrase, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Some myths about the sexual abuse of girls and boys are:
- Children fantasize and lie about sexual abuse – Not true. Children rarely lie or imagine sexual abuse.
- Males who have been abused grow up to become abusers – Not true. Research does not support this.
- Males will become homosexual because of the abuse – Not true. Research does not support this.
- It’s only “dirty old men” or homosexual men who abuse – False. 90% of abusers are heterosexual males from all socioeconomic backgrounds. The tiniest fraction of abusers are female.
- Child sexual abuse is harmless – Not true. Sexual abuse of children has the capacity to cause serious damage to a child’s physical, social and emotional development and can cause withdrawal and emotional problems into adulthood. The longer the abuse goes on, the greater the long-term problems will be.
- Children provoke the abuse and enjoy it – Not true.
Anyone affected by sexual violence can receive free, confidential, live help through: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). National Sexual Assault Hotlines, 24/7. Call 1.800.656.HOPE (www.rainn.org) to be connected to a local rape crisis center, or visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.
Founded in 1994, MaleSurvior (www.MaleSurvivor.org) is not-for-profit organization committed to preventing, healing, and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through support, treatment, research, education, advocacy and activism. MaleSurvivor 13th International Conference: A World of Healing, November 15-18, 2012 at John Jay College, New York City.