Persons who do not become abusers have protective factors in their lives that help them to cope with, adapt to, and overcome adversities. Child sexual abuse is an adversity. For many children, it is a trauma that may affect the quality of their lives into adulthood and old age if no one helps them to deal with it. Fortunately, most boys and girls who are sexually abused have the resources not to abuse children themselves.
There are many protective factors associated with not becoming perpetrators when boys and girls have been sexually abused. They include having emotionally available parents, being emotional expressive themselves, desire not to perpetrate child sexual abuse, positive relationships with parents, pro-social peers and adults, both the desire and resources to be emulate these pro-social persons, avoidance of relationships with anti-social peers, rejection of beliefs that they come first and can use others for their purposes, competencies in school, athletics or other activities, and a sense of a positive future. Persons who cope successfully with adversities are said to be resilient.
Studies show that most perpetrators of child sexual abuse were not sexually abused in childhood and, in fact, had parents who were “good enough,” about as competent as most other parents. On the other hand, many were raised by parents who were not emotionally available and sometimes were abusive and neglectful. Such parents undermine the development of sensitive, responsiveness. Abusers do not have the emotional capacities or the conviction based upon beliefs to resist desires for sexual contact with children, although some can be quite emotionally sensitive in other situations.
“Me First” Beliefs
Abusers have a “me first” belief that allows them to use children sexually. They may tell themselves a variety of things about what the abuse means to the children, but they are self-centered and self-absorbed. Their behaviors show that they also believe they have a right to take what they want. At the time of the abuse, they think only of short-term gains for themselves and disregard, dismiss, and distort consequences for the children, children’s families, and their own families. Some may have some moral values that tell them that these behaviors are wrong. They therefore turn things around and tell themselves that children want and enjoy it, that this is love and not abuse, or, if they know they are hurting children, that the children deserve to be treated badly.