If you were to take the time to speak to a sexual offender or an abusive man, it would not be surprising to hear that for most of them somewhere along their formative years they witnessed the abuse of a female loved one.
No little boy grows up aspiring to be a sexual abuser or rapist, and no parent sits down to teach their child how to be such a person, I hope. Too often adults neglect to pay attention to what their child is learning from their own actions.
Children learn the majority of their character traits from what they experience and because most of their time is spent with family, that is where their core behavioural personas stem from.
After spending years watching his mother or mother figure experience abuse at the hands of his father, a boy once grown and in his own relationship may adopt the same abusive nature. Granted, there is no cookie cutter template for relationships and some boys grow up to be nothing like their abusive parents – we hope for more young men like these. This article serves to highlight those who, for one reason or the other, have stemmed towards the negative, and to help cut the cycle.
Children who live in homes where domestic violence is the norm, grow up in an environment that is volatile, filled with tension and anxiety and dominated by fear. This can lead to significant emotional and psychological trauma, similar to that experienced by children who are victims of child abuse.
Instead of growing up in an emotionally and physically safe, secure, nurturing and predictable environment, these children are forced to worry about the future and their safety, trying to predict when it might happen next and how to protect themselves and their family.
These children will see their mother threatened, demeaned or physically or sexually assaulted. They will overhear conflict and violence and see the aftermath of the violence such as their mother’s injuries and her traumatic response to the violence. Children also may be used and manipulated by the abuser to hurt their mother. Thus creating the normalcy of abuse.
There is no excuse for abusive behaviour towards another human being, with that said, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of little boys growing up into sexual abusers.
For some men, they see their rage and actions towards women and girls is a corrective measure, a seriously warped view of how they saw their mother figures being treated and the justification given by their abuser.
Psychologists may give us various reasons as to why the fact that while most victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV) are female, most perpetrators are male. Many theories exist that try to explain the behaviour of men who commit GBV, including the belief that the abuse is an influencing factor in the transition from victim to offender.
The experience of GBV and its psychosocial effects may be different for boys, compared to girls. The experience of GBV may involve risk factors that affect the development of sexually abusive behaviour for boys, rather than girls.
In that regard, let us focus on how this behaviour can be nipped in the bud. In doing so, not only will we be able to protect and save the lives of countless women and girls but also help evade a toxic cycle in the lives of men and boys.
It starts today, in offering counsel and support for both the survivors and the boys who have experienced GBV.
When a little boy has lived through and abusive family he has not escaped it until he is rescued from the mind-set of it.