Sex and Health: Focusing on Sexual Assault Perpetrators

Screengrab via ForThePeople.com

Sydney Lucero

Contributing Writer

In lieu of the constant barrage of regurgitated tips on how potential victims can take on the responsibility of dictating their lives as well as the actions caused by sexual assault, perhaps it is time we focused on the actual problem: the perpetrators who commit these crimes.  

We have heard it all before: walk-in groups, don’t consume too much alcohol, don’t go places alone at night, stay in well-lit areas, scream “fire” not “help” among many others.

While these are important considerations, instead of simply restating rape prevention tips for potential victims, we should examine ourselves, strangers, as well as those we are unsure of.

We should look for traits that can be indicators of potential predatory behavior. 

According to Psychology Today, “people who can spot predators are ignored for reasons similar to those that blind many people to these offenders in the first place—distortion and denial.”

Predators count on it, especially in those rare times when someone is savvy enough to spot them and try to alert others.” 

Be suspicious of a person’s “props.” 

Being plied on gifts, a charming smile, fast talk or empty promises are all examples of props.

These are tools that can be used to distract from manipulation or exploitation or to prime a victim for abuse to occur, which is often referred to as “grooming.”

While some people may not have sinister motives lurking beneath their kindness, it does not hurt to pay attention to what the objective might be for their actions, even if they seem innocent enough.

One should also look at themselves in the same fashion.

Are you giving things to someone to elicit something from them later? 

Do you smile or talk yourself out of situations to avoid being held responsible for your actions? 

Another trait one should look for is excessive perfection. 

This might sound ridiculous to some but the phrase “too good to be true” exists for a reason.

Everyone has flaws, things they are not proud of.

Flattery, an overflowing of favors, and grandiose stories should put one on their guard.  

A facade of perfection is often used as a way to earn the trust and gratitude of a specific target and eventually, it cracks when ulterior violent tendencies are acted upon.

This is especially relevant for people who tend to change their personality or behavior  to suit whoever they are with, which according to Wellbeing.org is called “perception management.”

Do you lie to control the way others see you?

Do you feel guilt or empathy over the way the lies you tell might affect other people? 

Another way to defend against predatory behavior is to know yourself.

In what ways are you vulnerable?

What are your blindspots? 

Predators strategically pick up on these things and utilize them to their advantage.

Let’s say, for example, you are uncomfortable alone in public and like to put your headphones in.

A predator might use the fact that you cannot hear external noise to sneak up on you while you are vulnerable.

This can apply to things that are not physical as well.

Are you gullible or too trusting? 

Do you always try to see the best in people? 

And on the flip side, do you use people’s weaknesses to your advantage?

Do you exploit their vulnerability to get what you want?  

To a predator, who is often also a narcissist, everyone is seen as prey.

Their relationships don’t involve true connection as they’re profoundly detached from other people.

“It is normal to interpret the behavior of those we know in the most benign and ordinary frame,” says Psychology Today.

But do not make excuses for people’s toxic behavior.

While these behaviors in themselves do not equate to much more than character flaws or selfish acts, they are still harmful to other people and can point to a serious lack of empathy or moral compass.

If not controlled, these types of behavior can lead to more drastic, violent or predatory behavior.

Recognize the warning signs in other people. Trust your instincts.

If you feel that something is off with someone, even someone who is well-liked and successful does not ignore it or hesitate to discuss your concerns.

And if you see these types of behaviors within yourself, question where they come from and perhaps consider seeking out therapy or professional help.

Again, no one is perfect.

It is okay to have flaws that need to be worked on, it is okay to have and or be treated for a mental illness or disorder. 

Although, it is not okay to allow your behavior to cause harm to other people, especially to escalate to causing someone physical or sexual harm.

Always, if you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of sexual assault get emergency medical care and report the assault to the authorities or someone you trust.

Students who are reporting an immediate assault should be accompanied to a health care facility of their choice to allow for the collection of evidence and treatment.

If a sexual assault victim chooses to report the incident days, weeks or even months after the assault, important support systems are still available and can be arranged.

Women’s Resources of Monroe County can be reached through their 24-hour crisis hotline at 570-421-4200, or online at wrmonroe.org.  

The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline can be reached at 800-656-4673.

Email Sydney at:

slucero@live.esu.edu

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