Comment: Hi Amy Herdy,
Your Ted talk led me to this website. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I want to thank you so much everything that you have brought to light in the talk and in writing, as I feel that it is something that needs to be said. I have been trying to find the courage to speak about having compassion for perpetrators of violence like this, because while it is hard to learn to forgive, there is a fact that I truly believe in: every person who does harm has been harmed.
I strongly believe this because of the stories I was told throughout my childhood by people who abused me. Almost every single one of them had a story about being abused as children, and they would often tell it to justify why they were hurting us. As a child, I was “trained” in very specific ways in how to abuse other children and in how to recruit children to bring back to sick adults to be abused. I have watched cousins and childhood friends turn to addiction and take on masks of mental illness to try to disguise what happened to us as children.
The reason that I feel compassion in spite of the anger about my life, is that, had it not been for a couple of extremely loving adults in my childhood who balanced out the pain, I cannot say that I would have turned out any differently than those who abused me. I experienced abuse as a sickness that is passed from generation to generation or from person to person. The difference with sexual abuse is that, unlike having a leg cut off and bleeding all over the place for the world to see, it is something that is so stigmatized and set in the category of “sexual.”
Knowledge of healthy sexual relationships isn’t something that children are typically exposed to as it is. But this is not a “sexual” thing. It is a “power” thing. In my experience, sexual abuse has more to do with one person feeling so powerless in themselves that the only way that they feel like they can have any sense of power in life is through taking advantage of others who are more vulnerable to them. This is the sickness.
In our society, we treat the symptoms of this sickness by throwing perpetrators and victims in jail, instead of trying the much simpler path of prevention. It makes way more sense to help children than to try to patch together broken adults. Thanks again for your work.
Time: June 29, 2017 at 6:42 pm
Filed under reader comments
Tagged as abuse, addiction, Childhood sexual abuse, healthy sexual relationship, mental illness, perpetrator, perpetrator of violence, perpetrators of violence, sexual, sexual abuse, survivor, survivor of childhood sexual abuse, victim, victims
Note from Amy: The following message is testament that the book Diary of a Predator: A Memoir has a profound effect on survivors:
I am moved by your work. No, not by your work as a writer – but the amount of inner work you’ve done to expand your compassion to include the suffering human beings within all the victims of rape, perpetrator included.
I once was a victim of rape. I’m no longer a victim because I was able to find compassion for my perpetrator. I believe it literally dissolved the toxic cells within my body to allow a new space, or perhaps, a renewed space to exist.
It’s interesting to me that so much is put upon the entity “forgiveness”. It always felt somehow abstract, like a word created by man, but allusive to behold in my body. Compassion though has true relevance, true power.
I could go on and on. I’ll just stop here by saying, thank you for your work that you put into this world: this truly panoramic embracing of humanity. I feel bigger and brighter and wider by the experience. You are giving all of us this opportunity.
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Tagged as book, compassion, diary, Diary of a predator, diary of a predator: a memoir, forgiveness, memoir, perpetrator, predator, rape, survivor, survivors, victim
Note from Amy:
The following comment was sent to this Diary of a Predator website in June, and inadvertently missed until recently. So here it is, better late than never:
Diary of a Predator Contact
Hello Amy, and anyone else listening. I just finished this book and am writing to thank you. Accepting that there is always more to who we are than what has happened TO us, and what we have DONE … is an essential piece of true connection – and you have lived this process and then shared the story, you and Brent both. Thank you Amy and Brent.
While it is true that many who live through horrendous trauma from very early life end up repeating destructive patterns, living as though it would be easier to die, or “becoming” the perpetrator, these are not the only possible answers. There is always more possibility, coupled with the original innocent child, hurt, but able to heal. I commend any effort to paint the reality of those truths, rather than only explore or sensationalize the more obvious destruction and pain.
Your process and work are about connection, and what true connection is all about. THAT — is the inherent drive of the innocent child, to know we are connected. there are many survivors of horrific childhoods who know this — how hard it can be to heal from early childhood trauma and ongoing violence, secrecy and varying levels of “dissociation” (it wasn’t me, it didn’t happen to me)… rampant in such households. But survive we do, and heal we do. I like the emphasis on how the healing happened, and purposeful focus on seeing beyond what was broken. Too many books and articles dwell only on that side…. and while offering suggestions about healing, do not paint that capacity as a real story, as a long and hard process — and based in reality.
As a person who lived through the worst kinds of very very early and ongoing abuse and neglect, with 20 plus years of healing work now, I was again – on finishing this book — nudged into the position of knowing that many of my “perpetrators” if not all, were victims in their own childhood as well. It is easier to let them go, and let go the binding energy that keeps us all down. Today I let more go. thank you amy and brent (feel free to share with brent). AR
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Tagged as Brent, childhood, diary, Diary of a predator, early childhood trauma, healing, perpetrator, predator, survivor, trauma, victim, violence
There are many studies that link child sexual abuse to that person becoming a perpetrator in later life, and Diary of a Predator: A Memoir is a perfect case study of that–Brent Brents committed crimes that were a direct reflection of the abuse he received as a child.
If you look at Jerry Sandusky’s childhood circumstances, you can see that he could very well have been a victim of child sexual abuse. When Jerry Sandusky was six–a vulnerable age–his family moved into an upstairs apartment of the Brownson House, a recreation center for troubled boys. By all accounts, thousands of troubled youth passed through that center, which included facilities for basketball, football and baseball-and which would have included locker rooms with showers (details from Jerry Sandusky’s case include him sexually abusing boys in a locker room shower).
The following is from a study by the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2001:
The risk of being a perpetrator is enhanced by prior victim experiences, doubled for incest, more so for peodophilia, and even higher for those exposed to both peodophilia and incest. This suggests that, in this selected sample, the experience of being a victim of peodophilia may have a more powerful causative influence in giving rise to the subject becoming a perpetrator than does incest, and the joint experience of being exposed to both peodophilia and incest has the most powerful effect.
This view is supported by the frequent clinical finding that the abuser’s target age-group is usually limited to the age when he was himself abused. The abusive act is a traumatic one — however cooperative the victim might appear to be — and the change from being the passive victim to the active perpetrator, making use of the mechanism of identification with the aggressor, is the way in which some victims repeatedly attempt to master the trauma. The use of psychological mechanisms, particularly splitting and denial, which enable the abuser to believe he is being benevolent when he is being abusive, are further characteristics which the victim acquires through his identification with the perpetrator.
-It sounds like that’s exactly what Jerry Sandusky did. And it’s definitely what Brent Brents did–he became a perpetrator in order to try to gain control over his feelings of helplessness, rage and victimization.
It does not excuse the horrible actions of either man, neither Brent Brents nor Jerry Sandusky. But it does help explain them.
Filed under The story
Tagged as Brent Brents, child sexual abuse, Diary of a predator, diary of a predator: a memoir, incest, Jerry Sandusky, memoir, peodophilia, perpetrator, predator, sexual abuse, victim, why did Jerry Sandusky do it?
What also prickled, was my first public acknowledgement of self blame. That I’d been so willing to accept the invitation of others to pick up the shame of what happened and convince myself that I deserved it. After struggling with this for a while, seeking help, receiving therapy (EMDR rocks), I’ve emerged with renewed curiosity. So, I’ve been reading the posts of others on the blog, as you recommend and the thought has occurred to me: ‘what else can I do to enable movement/growth of the intention of the book & blog?’ .. other questions: Is rape an inevitability? Will the abuse of children always be present in humanity? (As it has been for thousands of years?) Can it be reliably predicted? How can the perpetrator of rape be forgiven? How does the person who was raped ‘become clean’? I believe this blog is a catalyst for these open questions and I’m grateful to be part of it. With love and gratitude, E