I have stated before that I am a survivor of incest CSA and my parents’ pedophile ring. I would like to respond to Sasha Joseph Neulinger, whose efforts I do admire, as detailed here at the Good Men Project, in an excellent article about his film titled Rewind To Fast-Forward, with the article being written by Edie Weinstein.
While I can certainly see the value of Sasha’s efforts, and I believe I could support his ideas, I do feel a need to call attention here to a myth called Vampire Syndrome, the stigma of believing that the abused will grow up to abuse others. Sasha mentioned that his father was abused by the same people, and yet his father did not abuse anybody in turn, so I realize he is aware that not all who abuse are somehow doomed to abuse also. However, the way this effort is written, and the idea that we must get victims and survivors more and better constant help from early on, raises the shadow of Vampire Syndrome in my mind.
For the sake of the silent victims and survivors, may I suggest that more care is taken to assure them that they are not doomed to abuse others just because they are/were abused. That stigma is a big factor in keeping many not only silent, but keeping them from seeking help. This is similar to the stigma of mental illness, where to seek help is to be branded, and in some cases, judged by others. Keeping Vampire Syndrome in mind, the silent ones need to also hear that while some grow up to offend, most do not. Also, most abusers were not abused as children. The statistics exist, please feel free to find them. While finding ways to break the cycle of abuse (in cases and families where it exists) is vital, we can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that the majority of the abused have not and would not ever abuse a child themselves, with or without therapy or other types of support. That way, we can also crush the stigma of Vampire Syndrome.
My parents were members of and my father eventually ran the pedophile ring I was born into. I have many reasons to believe that they were both abused as children, and yes they grew up and chose to abuse myself and many others. They forced us to abuse each other as well, and made films and other child abuse images of this to sell. They rented us to “clients”, sometimes many times a day or night. Yet I survived, grew up, and have never abused a child, would never, and have no urge or desire to do so, just like Sasha’s father.
In the years after I escaped my parents, and prior to receiving any help, I never abused others. This was long before I found the loving support of my new family and began therapy, as well as treatment for bipolar and a host of phobias and other issues that are abuse-related. When I finally received help, it began to help me learn how to heal. What it did not do, was “cure me” of a desire to abuse, as I never felt that desire at all. For the minority numbers of survivors who do go on to abuse others, I do believe that immediate, consistent, and far improved help could be instrumental in breaking that cycle of abuse within that minority. My point is, we need to be careful that we don’t sound like we believe “all” survivors are at risk to become abusers. For the few who are at risk, as my parents obviously were, I do hope early help might change that risk for them and others.
Yes, victims need more and better help, as soon as possible, and probably for years to come. Yes, adult survivors of CSA can also work to heal. But if Vampire Syndrome stigma prevents them from telling their secret or getting help, then they will not speak up or seek help. We must be cautious and aware, and cover all angles, or risk great numbers who need help slipping through the cracks.
Also, on the issue of “forgiving abusers”, I refuse to do so, and I have been immensely helped by these two articles about how being pushed to forgive (or even suggesting forgiveness to somebody who rejects it) can cause great damage to a survivor of CSA or rape. You can find those articles here:
Must You Forgive? By Jeanne Safer, Psychology Today
Forgiveness as a Weapon By Dianna E. Anderson
You can find more information about Vampire Syndrome myth here. It is #7 on the list, but the entire page should be read and shared often:
I ask Sasha Neulinger, Edie Weinstein, the Good Men Project and others to please consider this heartfelt advice from a fellow survivor. We need to be sure our attempts to help are not also triggering stigma that could prevent others from speaking out or seeking help. I have written on these topics and others for the Good Men Project before and there are links to my articles there on my links page here.
Victims and survivors are not one-size-fits-all, and so our efforts to help cannot be, either. Just as some viewpoints of a religious nature have inspired me to remind others that to some of us, abused by “people of God”, religion is just another horror, and never will be any sort of comfort. Religious-based “help” turns me away and probably turns away many others, too.
I know some people will say, “This article is about breaking the cycle of abuse where it does exist, so you should write your own article about this topic.” Technically, I just did. However, the efforts Sasha Neulinger is making to address the breaking of the cycle of abuse are worded in places in such a way that this survivor, who has no urge to abuse others, felt that the stigma of Vampire Syndrome needed to be addressed here.
If the goal is to reach all survivors and prevent more people from beginning their lives as CSA victims, then addressing the fact that only a minority of abused people may in turn abuse others becomes vital. Otherwise, we will never be able to help those who are smothered under the stigma of Vampire Syndrome on top of all the other horrors and damage they face.
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© W.R.R. 5/8/2014
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.
Thank you for reading.