Commonly Shared Traits of All Types of Abuse
We primarily deal with domestic violence abuse here at ACFJ, but we often also confront sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, and other genres of this evil. This is because abuse of all kinds shares a fundamental mentality — entitlement to power and control and a profound justification to do what is necessary to get that power and control.
The first book about abuse that I read some three years ago now was Scott Allen Johnson’s Physical Abusers and Sexual Offenders [*Affiliate link]. This is one of the best books I have ever read on this subject and I highly recommend it, even though it costs quite a lot. Johnson addresses the common failure to recognize that domestic violence abusers and sex offenders often overlap, something that he says has been a neglected area of study. Johnson is correct.
Similarly, Carla Van Dam, in her wonderful book The Socially Skilled Child Molester [*Affiliate link] [Howarth Press: 2006], exposes the mentality and tactics of child sexual predators and her words also remind us of the crossover in the various areas of abuse. Listen to these words from Van Dam’s fifth chapter which is entitled Common Misperceptions. As you read what she says about child molesters, I can assure you that the scenarios she describes here will sound spot on familiar to all of you who have been the target of a domestic abuser:
The problem with child sexual abuse is that much of what actually happens is explained away, minimized, blamed on the victim, viewed as an accidental occurrence caused by the alleged offender’s stress, lack of access to a suitable partner, a poor marriage or unresponsive spouse, or the result of drug or alcohol abuse. The behavior may otherwise be accepted as a poorly executed loving gesture, or a misunderstood attempt at ‘sex education.’ Often the abusive behavior is explained as ‘looking after the child’s hygiene,’ or attributed to ‘looking after a medical matter.’
When child molesters are questioned regarding suspicious behavior, or when they are investigated as a result of allegations made, they provide a standard array of stories to explain what was reported, or to soothe concerns about any directly witnessed improprieties. Only by correctly recognizing these stories as the cover stories that they are, can adults avoid becoming bogged down in the slippery details to begin taking the necessary steps to know how to pierce these smoke screens in order to hone in on the actual misconduct. Then they can take the necessary steps to directly protect children.
Child molesters are intrepid liars. They lie because they can, and because those listening want to give them the benefit of the doubt. They lie to themselves, and because they believe their stories, they sound sincere. Furthermore, most people do not expect to be outrageously lied to, and therefore tend to believe the stories. Those who unwittingly encounter child molesters and are not accustomed to the lies are easily conned. Adults who are not already extremely clear about the boundaries of acceptable conduct become easy targets and are easily hoodwinked by child molesters. Those parents who unknowingly are being charmed by child molesters accept the stories because they are not attentive to the inconsistencies.
Accepting any of these lies to avoid the awkward and embarrassing task of expressing disbelief empowers the child molester. Accepting the inconsistencies enables the child molester. Tolerating blurred boundaries ensures the children will be yet more invasively abused. Being too happy to accept favors for nothing, thereby becoming indebted, may put children at risk. Being too quick to overlook warning bells ensures children will be targeted. People unfamiliar with the cliches of these Groomers, their lame rationalizations and their outright lies, will be easily seduced into believing ‘nobody this kind and sincere could be guilty of any impropriety.’
The very same kinds of dynamics, right? The gaining of allies. The lying. The duped friends and family members. The blaming of the victim. Excuses. The whole package.
So when we study abuse, we are studying evil. Evil often in high places, because it is power that evil craves. The study of abuse makes us wise. It sobers us up and brings us out of dangerous naivete.
Frighteningly, pastors and church leaders and Christians most typically receive absolutely no education in this field. Christ’s people, who hold God’s Word in their hands, so often remain woefully ignorant of what that Word is trying to tell them.
Eph 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.