Crimes make people uncomfortable. They particularly irk people whenever victims describe what happened to them. I think, however, that people sometimes need to be uncomfortable. People need to hear what happens. As much as those stories may ruin a person’s day, I think it is important to understand how experiencing those things can potentially ruin a person’s life.
This is all the more important when it comes to taboo topics like female sex offenders. People avoid the topic for a variety of reasons. In turn, victims of female abusers learn to keep the experiences to themselves. The only people this helps are female sexual predators. It does nothing to help the public understand how these women operate. It certainly does not help the victims who suffer in silence.
A recent article presented the stories of several men abused by women. I found the article worth noting because it is from
Australia New Zealand, a country notorious for its poor treatment of male victims and dismissal of female perpetrators.
From the article:
AARON Gilmore was not even a teenager when he was sexually abused by a family friend who he regarded as a second mother. […] Now a father-of-two children and the owner of a dancing school in Auckland, Mr Gilmore told news.com.au the grooming began at 11 after Hendrika Margaret Shaskey noticed he was a troubled kid craving attention.
According to Gilmore, Shaskey exploited his need for love and attention. She was “genuinely nice” to him. Yet when she moved things to a more sexual nature, Gilmore became concerned. Shaskey assured him that it would be their “special secret”:
What started as hugging and kissing on the cheek soon progressed to much more but as the months wore on he said he became more uncomfortable with the situation and wanted out.
But when he told her he said she “burst into tears” and threatened to tell his parents, telling him it was all his fault.
“I was a shell, I shut down, I just existed,” he said.
This is classic grooming behavior. The abuser wins the victim’s trust, making them dependant on the abuser’s affection. Once the victim tries to stop the abuse, the abuser guilt trips or threatens them into silence. This is difficult enough for adults to handle. A child, even a teenager, usually lacks the experience to deal with this kind of manipulation. Like Gilmore, they feel trapped, aware that something is wrong yet confused on what to do about it.
Gilmore eventually got away from Shaskey once he turned 18. When he finally decided to report the abuse, the police proved unhelpful and unconcerned :
The police reaction was one he will never forget.
“The officer said ‘I’m failing to see a crime here’ and my partner lost it,” he said.
Unfortunately, this is a common response. Many people in law enforcement react this way, as do many of those working in support services. Some people regard mentioning this as an attempt to claim no one helps male victims. However, the purpose is only to highlight what happens to thousands of men and boys. We need to hear about these cases so that we see they are not outliers. They happen frequently enough to present a real problem for victims who come forward.
In Gilmore’s case, his abuser received five years for sexual violation. Shaskey was originally charged, however, with cruelty to a child. While the sexual violation does not address what Shaskey actually did, that it was an upgrade shows the type of double standard at play. Few men who systematically preyed on a child would receive a cruetly charge.
The second man interviewed had a similar experience :
Ken Clearwater was just 12 years old when he said he was sexually violated.
Already having suffered a rape at the hands of a man, he never expected to be abused by a woman.
“She sexually violated me and wanted me to do things to her that I couldn’t even comprehend,” the Christchurch man said of the second assault.
That abuse, which followed a rape six months earlier, destroyed the tiny amount of innocence and trust he had left.
This is another aspect of abuse that people rarely discuss. Many victims become prey to more to one abuser. Clearwater did report the man, who ended up serving time for the abuse. Yet he never reported the abuse at the hands of the woman due to shame:
“She made me lie on the bed beside her, she started touching me sexually and got me to touch her,” he told news.com.au
“I was scared and couldn’t get an erection and she laughed at me and said I wasn’t a real man, and she was right I was a frightened boy.
“After the abuse that happened to me I went from a happy little boy to a nasty angry sarcastic person.”
As a result of the abuse, Clearwater developed a distrust of women:
More than 50 years later, the father of “two beautiful daughters” still has difficulty trusting women.
“I struggle with relationships with women and feel that when I am in it I am trapped,” he said.
Like many victims, Clearwater turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the abuse. He also lashed out violently at a teacher and a foreman at his job. He later took up boxing to channel his anger.
While we see the above response with many different situations boys face, people rarely connect them with sexual violence, particularly violence at the hands of women. It is something that people typically never ask about. This is terrible because like Clearwater, many abused boys would never tell but for someone asking.
This failure to understand that boys can be victims leads to people ignoring the actual cause of some boys’ bad behavior. As Clearwater notes:
“People seem to think being a male victim is not as bad as being a female victim and that if the perpetrator is a female the damage isn’t as bad not realising the psychological damage it can do and especially if that female is a mother.
“As in many countries males have been seen as perpetrators and not victims and our country is having trouble coming to terms with female perpetrators.”
Perhaps Clearwater’s best point was this:
“Sexual abuse and violence is a human rights issue not a gender issue.”
As much as it may annoy some people, the above statement is true: this is not a gender issue. It affects both males and females. No group should be ignored, and no group should have to suffer in silence. There is no excuse for treating this issue as if it only affects females or as if it hurts males less. As shown by these two men’s stories, the cost for ignoring the abuse is far greater than the cost of changing the narrative about sexual violence.