Learning LIST-Learning

The ‘victim-to-offender’ myth

There is a common myth that men and boys who have been sexually abused will go on to perpetrate sexual abuse. The reality is that the vast majority of boys and men who are sexually abused do not go on to commit sexual abuse. Knowing only too well the distress caused by abuse, most men who have been abused are horrified by such a suggestion. Some choose to become advocates speaking out against sexual abuse and violence.

The ‘victim to offender’ myth itself impacts men’s lives. The idea he is ‘infected’ or ‘contaminated’ can lead to fears of harming children, despite having no conscious intention or thoughts of doing so (this is sometimes referred to as the myth of the ‘vampires bite’). This leads some men go to great lengths to limit interactions with children or avoid relationships.

The fear that others will see him as a potential ‘abuser’ is a major obstacle to men telling anyone about the sexual abuse they suffered.

If at the time of being abused, a child acted sexually with other children or was pressured to do sexual things to other children, it can add to these worries about ‘becoming an abuser’. It is important to remember that the ‘reactive’, coerced behaviours of a traumatized child are very different to an adult making a conscious decision to commit abuse.

If anyone (whether they were abused or not) is having sexualized fantasies about a child, or worried they will hurt someone, they should speak with a qualified counselor or health professional as soon as possible.

There is a more detailed discussion of the victim-to-offender issue on the Living Well website.

Questions to consider:

  • How has fear of abusing affected the way you relate to children in your life?
  • How has it affected your relationship with other people you are close to?
  • How are you different from the person/s who sexually abused you?
  • If you worry about the possibility of children being abused, and take steps to protect children, what does that say about your intentions and the kind of person you are trying to be?
  • How do you act in ways that promote greater safety, care and support for children?