A Challenge to Bystanders and Silent Supporters

My mom adored my new boyfriend and everyone thought we were the cutest thing. The approval I’d been fighting for, I finally had it. We had the same birthday, he was cute, played the guitar, and had manners. How great can you get? He had it all going for him, until we had a mutual agreement to break up. As “free bait”, the onetime fling I had with a fellow classmate, Brandon, escalated into dangerous territory. Walking the back stairways of a high school that was filled with dead end hallways, he’d follow me and pull me under the stairs, digging his hands into my wrist. I was conditioned to stay quiet; to accept it because being used and hurt was the only thing I was good for. After my no’s continuously became ignored, I stopped defending myself. He made it apparent that I never controlled anything with him. Fear crept back in as I started to lose control, again.  After asking to be as far away from him as possible in our shared history class, my only option to avoid his burning hands was to skip lunch and run through the halls.

Cutting continued to be a bandage that had to constantly be replaced. I rarely left home without razor blades, but in the middle of a crisis I often found myself turning to varying alternatives. I was desperate for an escape. Brandon’s whispers filled our history class as his stares burned through me. All the hurt from Hayley and David was done with, along with their concern for me and their care. I was left without them and a mess I created from wanting attention. It didn’t take much longer until I went looking for them again.

When Hayley and I started talking again things fell quickly back into place. The brainwashed girl I was over a year ago was still there, just even easier to manipulate as I begged for forgiveness. As sorry as I was, I would never be able to repay either of them. From the beginning Hayley was the overly clingy type and extremely demanding of my time. Constantly wanting my attention, always wanting confirmation, always wanting me to promise to never leave, threatening suicide when we’d argue; it was always something. She was just as desperate for attention as I was. We were the same in that way, and were both victims of a self-centered, manipulative monster that got away with everything. She just continued to carry on the cycle of abuse.

A few times, I heard from her ex-best friend. Prior to Hayley and me meeting, they lived together as a way for Hayley to get away from family. Messages meant only for me, I’d relay to Hayley for an explanation.

“Leave.”

“Get away.”

“Save yourself.”

“She’s lying.”

“They’re evil.”

“RUN.”

She’d keep trying but I would not only refuse to listen, but would call her a liar. I’d argue with her that she was just upset because they weren’t friends anymore; she was after revenge and Hayley wasn’t the “bad” one, she was. Then, she stopped.

I refused to listen to the one person who was telling me the truth.

By my senior year of high school the blanks in my memory became significant. I’d go hours or days not knowing what had happened. I couldn’t keep up with what was going on in school, things I was supposed to do with friends, or remember things I was told I had said. It felt like my memory was Swiss cheese and I didn’t have the motivation or care to question why I was missing so much time. The one thing that wouldn’t leave my memory was the flash of a camera. Getting my picture taken made me sick from fear; the stress of getting my picture taken was almost unbearable. It wasn’t until college when I saw the other side of the camera, a camera that held snapshots of images I couldn’t grasp because I couldn’t remember, but were being passed around the globe.


  • The fastest growing demand in commercial websites for child abuse is for images depicting the worst type of abuse, including penetrative sexual activity involving children and adults and sadism or penetration by an animal (Internet Watch Foundation. Annual Report, 2008).
  • Child sexual abuse images and videos are often extremely graphic and violent. Among the images of identified victims submitted to NCMEC in the last five years, most depict anal and/or vaginal penetration. Almost half include depictions of bondage and/or sado-masochism.

As a society we’re conditioned to not really think about these things – sexual abuse, domestic abuse, child pornography, incest. So we remain in this web that continues to grow and affect hundreds of thousands of lives, but many people continue to back away from approaching the subject. After all, how do you talk about such topics? How do you accept that we do in fact live in world where these types of things happen and it’s not the fault of the victim? By accepting this our world is shaken, our safety and the safety of our loved ones is made vulnerable, and in the end, we can’t stop it from happening to anyone. While all of this is true, our safety and the safety of our loved ones is even more jeopardized by living in denial. We can’t stop these forms of abuse in the world, but we can educate and become a voice for those that can’t speak. While no one may want to accept the truth of the above statistics, living in denial and hurriedly scrolling past these and other statistics don’t make them any less prevalent.

Instead of remaining a silent supporter or a bystander, I challenge you to not only become more aware, but educate those around you. It only takes one drop to create a wave.

Taking Back the Power

“What she needs isn’t death,
there’s no reason for her to take her last breath.
No, what she needs is for someone
to be there when she is full of fear”

(2004)

Summer 2006. The humidity filled the pollution filled air and the scorching sun played tricks on my eyes. Hayley’s phone number flashed on the front screen of my flip phone. She was on her way, on her way to stay at my house for the first time. Home alone and excited to have the company, I flung out the front door. The cement burned the bottom of my bare feet as I ran down the driveway in anticipation. My heart fluttered; this was a first and my heart fluctuated between fear and excitement. As the car she was in pulled up, a sense of power filled me; a sense of control and comfort with her being in my territory. Before the car pulled off, we both jumped up and down. We both knew the chances we were taking with her being there, the secrets of shared hurts were on the line.

Walking inside, I threw her bag down. Twisting the lock on the front door multiple times before we plotted down on the sofa, we began to talk like we were best friends. My overprotective dog stuck beside me, growling and barking at any sudden movements. Holding his small, black body beside me, I apologized for his behavior and reasoned that he was not fond of strangers.

Making herself at home, we watched movies, joked around, and rummaged the pantry. After weeks of preparing for her visit, I hesitated to reach for the junk food that I had been avoiding, her father’s degrading remarks ringing in my ears. Desperate to maintain the extra few pounds I lost, but struggling to ignore the hunger pangs, I dug my nails into my palm as I grabbed ice cream out of the freezer. I covered my loss of control and anger at myself by offering her some of my weakness, delighted to hear that she lacked control just as much as me.

The day wound down and knowing my family would be home soon, we barricaded ourselves in my room by 5 o’clock to prepare for a night locked in. Grabbing for her bag that had been shoved in my closet, she brought out a bottle of Vodka. Without asking, she poured the toxic liquid into each of our glasses that were half-way full with soda. Sixteen and never having alcohol, the butterflies in my stomach began to flutter. Offering me my glass, she tipped hers towards mine and downed it without reservation. Flashes of her and her dad passed out from drinking binges ran past my memory. Holding the glass in my hand I swished the liquid that was nearly to the top from side to side, taking in the strong smell that made my stomach bubble. Putting the glass to my mouth, I swallowed, and hid the fact that I wanted to vomit up the taste that was burning my mouth. Instead, I didn’t utter a complaint and ignored my body as it began to scream “STOP!” Between drinks, Hayley shared her adoration for a child she sometimes babysat. Her phone flashed pictures of a small little girl with dark hair and dark eyes. Her voice filled with excitement as she went on about how smart and sweet this toddler was, and how she would never let her dad know she was around children. Full of alcohol and no tolerance, my room began to spin and everything went black. Familiar with missing pieces of time, I easily slid back into reality when my room came back into focus, her voice filling my ears. Darkness began to fill the arched window in my room that looked out to the street. With little energy to do anything but lay there, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the morning, both of us still barricaded in my room.


I tend to hear a common reoccurring theme from survivors of childhood/adolescent sexual abuse, that being that they lost their innocence. I held this same belief just up until recently. Although I went from being overly sheltered to being sexually abused for a number of years, my innocence was something that never left me, in fact, in some regards it probably grew because I desperately wanted what I felt had been taken. There are certain things I labeled myself else even after being away from abuse that created a victim mentality. I walked around feeling impure and had lost all of my innocence, when in fact, my innocence and purity had just become very twisted and mutated.

A few months ago someone said to me “if you think that, you’re naive” about a guy I was going out with as friends. I’ll admit, it hurt. In fact, it hurt so much I had to bite my tongue to hold back the tears because I felt like it was a hit to my personality. As much as I felt hurt by this remark, later that day I realized I am naive to men’s intentions with me because I lack healthy experience, or any experience at all short of abuse. I used to label all men as dangerous, only wanting sex, and self-centered. Having moved past this stage, I no longer use this all black thinking and find myself either in the white or grey area; either way, I’m hopeful. Jumping from one extreme to the other, or even to the middle area, I won’t deny naivety or possibly even innocence because of lack of experience and knowing. While this can be a potentially dangerous factor, instead of becoming fearful of it, I promised myself, at this stage of my life dating and opposite sex relationships are the one thing I need to talk about with trusted others for my safety. Abusive background or not, we all have our pitfalls. Acknowledging these pitfalls and reaching out for support rather we think we need it or not can sometimes literally be a means of safety.

Abusers are mastermind manipulators, and while you may feel like your life has been stolen, you have the reigns to take back the power.

 

Female Sex Offenders: The Last Taboo

“Looking through the mirror
of all those yester-years.
My life began to revolve around,
nothing but my fears.”

(undated)

The pages of the calendar continued to change, months and years passing. For every candle added to my birthday cakes, the more frequent days would pass that I couldn’t remember. Excuses and lies filled my days. Excuses to get out of changing in the locker room, excuses to get out of staying after school, excuses to cover up lies, and excuses for Hayley and David’s actions. Excusing their actions because of the misery in their lives, I began to fear what was in store for my future; surely I would be no better. Each of them gripped their bottles of alcohol as if booze was their lifeline; alcohol was a sure way for them to drown everything out. I pitied their habits, feeling sorry for them when they were passed out surrounded by a stench of Coke and Jack Daniels.

For all the attacks, tears, pain, and fear, I still carried around care and compassion for Hayley. For every action she committed that took the life out of me, she filled me back up through expressions of sincerity and care. The voices of “you’re stupid and fat” that screamed at me to take beyond destructive action were calmed by her reassurance and acceptance. These glimpses of care burned brighter than being held down, hurt, or torn down by words. I was blinded by these rare occurrences, and held on to them even through the darkest storms.

I was desperate to be loved, and continued to push away the truth that screamed at me. I continued to refuse women could be abusers, justifying Hayley’s actions and accepting her abusiveness as normal. Abuse was normal.


Men are automatically the ones we tell our children to be cautious around. Women are the caregivers, the protectors, the safe haven, and the automatic “safe” choice. It’s statistically accurate to say that men are the predominant sexual predators. However, the number of sexually abusive women are minimal because of the beliefs society holds about women. Just as shame surrounds the male victim that is abused by a male perpetrator, the same shame is held by the female victim that is abused by a woman. Sexual abuse is extremely under reported, with victims of female perpetrators even more under reported. Many studies have consistently shown that a vast majority of both male and female victims of female sex offenders tell no one.  Girls face the task of convincing others that females can be abusive and that touch between females can be sexualized. Males are not socialized to report victimization.

According to Dr. Michelle Golland female sex offenders typically fall within these characteristics:

 

  • Women between the ages of 22-33 years of age.
  • They have experienced sexual abuse as children or teens and can have victimization histories twice the rate of men who sexually offend.
  • History of alcohol and/or drug abuse.
  • The majority are not mentally ill, but may experience depression or personality disorders.
  • A majority are employed in professional jobs.
  • They have difficulties in intimate relationships; or an absence of intimate relationships.

Their victims comprise:

 

  • A high percentage of victims are in the family or the perpetrator is close to the victim — friend, teacher, coach, sitter or clergy.
  • Victims are both boys and girls — with a slightly higher number of girls.
  • Younger children, under the age of 12, are more often victims of women over the age of 30 years of age.
  • Children between the ages of 13-17 are often the victims of women who are between the ages of 18 to 25 years of age.
  • Women do not tend to show a “victim age preference” in the same manner that male sex offenders do.

and they are categorized as:

 

  • Teacher/Lover: At the time of their offending, these women are often struggling with peer relationships. They perceive themselves as having romantic or sexually mentoring “relationships” with underaged adolescent victims of their sexual preference, and therefore, did not consider what they are doing to be wrong or criminal in nature.
  • Predisposed: Histories of incestuous sexual victimization, psychological difficulties and deviant sexual fantasies were common among these women who generally acted alone in their offending. They tend to victimize their own children or other young children within their families or they are close too.
  • Male-Coerced: These women tend to be passive and dependent individuals with histories of sexual abuse and relationship difficulties. Fearing abandonment, they were pressured by male partners to commit sex offenses often against their own children.

If we as a culture continue to deny the fact that women can and are capable of being sex offenders, we deny victims the support they need to report and heal from their trauma. While no type of abuse is worse than the other, from my experience, being sexually abused by a woman took a much harder toll on me than being abused by men. Although we are far from where we need to be as a society with supporting sexual abuse victims, our society as a whole has come a long way in recent years over the issue of male sexual offenders and pedophilia. However, there continues to be a systemic denial of females as sexual abusers. The involvement of women as predators is still seen a taboo. Accepting the fact that women can also be sexual predators undermines what we believe is the nurturing and caring side of women, but denying this fact keeps this harrowing truth hidden along with the victims that are harboring their pain in silence.