The Legacy of Child Sexual Abuse

My husband Tom and I have been watching a Netflix show called Criminal Minds. It is about the cases of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), an elite group of profilers who analyze the nation’s most dangerous serial killers and individual heinous crimes in an effort to anticipate their next moves before they strike again. At times these stories are chilling and difficult to watch. Since we’re both addicted to detective stories and like ilk we soldier on, alternating Criminal Minds with the lighthearted and somewhat comical Netflix show, Republic of Doyle, where Jake Doyle and his father Malachy run a private investigations agency in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

One of the main threads that crops up time and again in Criminal Minds is how many of their perpetrators were sexually abused as a child. I know, I know, this is just a Netflix show and don’t take anything as gospel but I’m sure their producers researched all the dialogue first. To get more information I searched the Internet to find out the percentage of child sexual abuse victims that become perpetrators. The following shows the varying information I found on the Internet.

The US National Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health said, “The overall rate of having been a victim was 35% for perpetrators and 11% for non-perpetrators. Of the 96 females, 43% had been victims but only one was a perpetrator. A high percentage of male subjects abused in childhood by a female relative became perpetrators”.

Child states that, “14% of all men and 36% of all women in prison were abused as children”.

The following information on the Incidence of Child Abuse in Serial Killers was written by Heather Mitchell and Michael G. Aamodt, Radford University and was found in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 2005, Volume 20, Number 1

“Childhood abuse has been given varying levels of blame in the development of serial killers. De Becker (1997) quoted Ressler’s research and stated that “100 percent [of serial killers] had been abused as children, either with violence, neglect, or humiliation” (p. 55). Ressler and Shachtman (1992) report that, “over 40 percent of the [serial] murderers reported being physically beaten and abused in their childhoods. More than 70 percent said they had witnessed or been part of sexually stressful events when young…”

I am not trying to promote sympathy for perpetrators who were sexually abused as a child. After all, I was sexually abused starting at the age of thirteen and I never became a perpetrator.

My message and my great concern is that too many parents are not qualified to be one. You have to have a license to drive a car and no license to have a baby. I doubt if this will ever happen but it is imperative that parents listen to me. You must treat any children you have with love, respect, tenderness and wisdom. With each of my four children, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I began bonding with them. I would sit and rock with my hand on my belly, singing to them, talking to them, telling them how happy I was to be their mother. Once they started moving I increased my conversations and songs and literally willed the love inside of me to go to the child inside of me.

“Babies are moving right from the beginning,” says Raul Artal, M.D., chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health at St. Louis University School of Medicine. “With the advent of ultrasound, we can see some movement as early as six to eight weeks gestation.” But you won’t feel your baby move for several more weeks, because she’s still too small to deliver a noticeable kick.”

This tiny fetus is your responsibility. It will be from the womb to the tomb. I became a single mom raising my four alone. I sometimes thought that once they were grown and on their own I could let go of the worry and care that goes with being a mother. But now I often wish they were back as small children. At least that way I had control over what they did in their lives.

I don’t care what happened to you as a child. Bringing your own child into your universe is magical and God-given. You must cherish them. You must listen to them. You must prepare them for life by showing them how to be responsible. You must rebuke them when they are doing wrong. You are forming them as surely as your body was forming them in the womb. I asked my four children a few years ago, now that they were all grown up, if I had ever spanked them. I haven’t decided whether spankings are ok or not. Their response? They had set the back yard on fire, loading a Tonka Truck with branches and debris and then lighting the fire. We had a very small back yard and the Tonka Truck was headed for the house when I caught them. And they all got spanked. None of them said they were traumatized by the spanking. But they did learn not to do that one again.

I’ve seen people who take better care of their new car than they do their children. I made a lot of errors in raising mine but none of them see their childhood as anything but fun and me as a great mother. I failed to protect two of my girls when they were sexually abused by my ex-husband. I didn’t find out until I was in own recovery and they had been full grown for many years. The guilt almost killed me. My youngest daughter was raped at gunpoint when she was 17 and working or a fast food place. Not one of them turned out to be abusers. I am incredibly proud of them. My son was an LAPD police officer for many years; in 1998 he received the Officer of the Year Award. My oldest daughter is a two-time Emmy award winner for sound editing television shows, my next daughter goes every year at her own expense to Thailand or Kenya or wherever in the world there is need of a medical missionary. My youngest daughter works as an RN in ER at a hospital in southern California. She is very good at what she does and loves her work. She told me that getting raped made her choose that career path. When we had taken her to the ER after her rape she was ignored by the nurses, treated as if she was bothering them while they chattered away about their dating world. She said she never wanted to be a nurse like that. She wanted to contribute to those in need. I think so often of the times when I put them to bed when they were little and woke up in the morning to find all four plus our dog in bed with me, their arms and legs piled on top of each other. For me it was happiness on steroids.

I must have done something right and so must you.



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