Can a Perpetrator be Healed?

The media will lead you to believe you can get men to stop sexual harassment and abuse by:

  • Educating men about why sexual harassment and abuse is wrong
  • Firing men from their jobs
  • Having women tell men how their behavior affected them
  • Educating men about gender equality
  • Shaming these men, posting their names on social media

These solutions on their own, are doomed to fail because they only address the symptoms rather than the root cause of sexual harassment and abuse which I addressed in the previous blog. Both the symptoms and the root need to be addressed for healing to occur.

For the perpetrator, this pattern of sexual abuse and harassment has most likely been with them for quite a while. These behaviors come from beliefs that were instilled in them from their family of origin, their religious upbringing and from the society in which they were raised. Things they were taught and things they observed. They usually begin as thoughts and they try to ignore them. Then they begin to entertain the thought, then imagine what it would be like to do this, what would it feel like, and then turn it into action. Usually the first time it is done they feel some shame and guilt. But whatever positive benefit they received from the behavior, it is strong enough to entice them to do it again until it becomes a habit and they find ways to justify what they do and often blame the victim for their behaviors. Healing involves:

  1. Becoming aware of these behaviors
  2. Admitting their responsibility rather than blaming others
  3. Understanding where these behaviors came from, why they did what they did and then doing what they need to change their beliefs, thoughts and feelings associated with these behaviors, so the behaviors will stop.
  4. Becoming aware of how these behaviors affected the victim
  5. Making appropriate amends to the one they harmed
  6. Forgiving themselves
  7. Being accountable to someone who will alert them when they see signs of this behavior again, so they can stop before they do it again.

The best place to process all of this and heal is through counseling. However, most people resist this and think they can just stop these behaviors at will. Or they just get another job, move to another city, find another girlfriend and begin the behaviors all over again, hoping their past won’t be found out and they will not get caught this time. If you know of someone who is struggling with these issues, please encourage them to seek counseling.



10 Reasons Why Men Sexually Harass and Abuse Women

While there are many reasons for this behavior, following are some of the reasons why I believe this happens:

  1. It is a generational pattern of behavior experienced and witnessed in families. If you were a witness or victim of sexual harassment or abuse growing up, there is a greater likelihood that you will either sexually harass or abuse someone or allow it to be done to you.
  2. It is a projection of the perpetrators own unhealed issues that they do not want to face or heal from so they project them onto the victim.
  3. When you repress your sexuality, your sexual energy will leak out in unhealthy ways. We were all created by God to be sexual beings, but few people are taught growing up what healthy sexuality looks and feels like.
  4. Men are not taught to respect women as an equal.
  5. When men feel insecure or have low self-esteem, they may feel threatened by a woman who appears to be more powerful, secure, educated, etc. than they are, so may look for a way to exert themselves over the woman, so they can feel better about themselves.
  6. Men are taught through religion that they are to be the one in control, the wife and children submit to them. They are often taught to see women as property rather than as an equal.
  7. Men are taught in our culture that they are smarter than women, better decision makers, they know what is right, they have greater value and worth than a woman.
  8. Men in a place of power believe they are invincible. They believe they can do whatever they want without any negative consequences.
  9. Pornography instills in men the belief that women are just objects for their own use, so they lose their ability to understand how their actions toward women affect women. Men are conditioned through pornography to believe that women enjoy how they are treating them, so when a woman says no, they do not take it seriously.
  10. Men fear the divine feminine energy. They fear any feminine traits they find within themselves. They do not know how to balance both the feminine and male traits that God created them with. They fear the rise of women in places of leadership and influence in our culture and church environment. Their identity as a male has always been tied to being superior to the female. Sexual harassment and abuse gives them a temporary feeling that they are still dominant and suppresses the feminine traits within them. The idea of gender equality is difficult for many of them to accept.

As a society we have done a poor job of raising men up to respect both themselves and women. The fault lies in so many different places as you can see in all the different reasons behind this behavior. If you are a parent, raising boys, look at this list and ask yourself what you can be doing differently so your son does not grow up to treat women disrespectfully. If you are a man reading this, take the time to honestly assess your life and see if you have fallen into any of these patterns of beliefs and behaviors. If so, seek counseling to help you process it all and become healthier in how you relate to women. Next week I will blog about how men can heal from this behavior.


Sexual Harassment & Abuse

I have doing a series of blogs about relationships. I am now going to address the role of sexual harassment & abuse in our culture and relationships. Initially, I had not planned on writing on this topic, but after seeing what is happening in the media, I decided to share my insights on this topic and will be doing several blogs on the following subjects:

  1. What is sexual harassment & abuse?
  2. What causes men to treat women this way?
  3. What causes women to silently put up with it?
  4. Why is everyone coming forward now about being sexually harassed & abused?
  5. How do people heal from this as both the victim and the perpetrator?
  6. How do we create a culture without sexual harassment & abuse?

The dictionary defines these terms as:
Sexual harassment is an uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (such as an employee or student)
Sexual abuse is the infliction of sexual contact upon a person by forcible compulsion or the engaging in sexual contact with a person who is below a specified age or who is incapable of giving consent because of age or mental or physical incapacity.

I would define these two terms as a selfish act of control, power, intimidation or manipulation toward another person to get what you want. Sex is not the primary purpose for this behavior, sex is just the vehicle used to express it through. It has been going on for so long that this behavior is considered acceptable by those who engage in it. While both men and women can sexually harass and abuse one another, in this series of blogs I am going to refer to the perpetrator as male since this is what is most prevalent in our society. What does sexual harassment or abuse look like?

  • Unwelcome verbal or physical sexual advances
  • Unwanted physical contact of any kind
  • Request for sexual favors
  • Making conditions of employment/school/relationship dependent on sexual favors
  • Threatening you that if you do not comply or if you tell, something bad will happen to you
  • Inappropriate conversations, jokes, emails or other communication with sexual innuendos/verbiage.
  • Showing inappropriate sexual cartoons, images, pictures or objects
  • Being forced into sexual acts you did not consent to or being forced to watch unwanted sexual acts

Many of you who are reading this may relate to at least one of the above as either a victim or a perpetrator. If so, please continue to read all the blogs I will be writing in this series. Next week I will address what causes men to sexually harass or abuse women.

Leaving a Relationship

I don’t think leaving a relationship is ever easy. We were all created by God to be love, receive love and share love. We were not meant to do life alone. When we begin a relationship, we feel those wonderful loving feelings. We all want to believe the fairy tale that this relationship will be different from all the others and this relationship will feel this way till death do us part. But not all relationships were meant to last a lifetime. So how do you know when to consider leaving a relationship?

Abuse: If you are consistently being physically, emotionally, verbally or sexually abused or manipulated, you are not in a safe relationship. You are living in a state of high anxiety, never knowing when the next attack will come. It is so easy to justify this, make excuses, tell yourself it is your fault this is happening. These are the most difficult relationships to leave because the abuser will threaten to kill or harm you or themselves if you talk about leaving.

Little in Common: As humans, we are designed to grow, expand, learn and experience as much of life as we can. Because of this we are always in a state of change, either for the better or for the worse. In a healthy relationship you support and encourage each other, seek to understand and respect your differences. However, in some relationships people are threatened by change, and their security comes from a person remaining the same through the years. If you no longer feel supported in who you have become, and the direction life is taking you, it is best to leave rather than remain with someone who is always pulling you down, holding you back, or criticizing you.

Loss of Love: Many people remain in relationships because they fear being alone, fear they will not be able to financially support themselves, fear what people will say if they leave, etc. Fear is not a reason to remain in a relationship. It is not fair to the other person that you remain with them because of fear rather than because you love them and enjoy sharing life with them.

Unbalanced: The relationship is out of balance. One person is doing all the giving, all the initiating, all the effort to try and make the relationship work. You feel exhausted and drained at the end of the day. The other person may be saying they are going to do this or that, but fail to follow through on anything with action, making lots of empty promises.

Before you choose to leave a relationship, seek counseling. Some relationships can be made stronger and healthier through counseling. For those relationships counseling is unable to help, whether a dating, living together or marital relationship, the breakup can be a painful process. It is a loss and you will go through a grieving process and feel the intensity of an assortment of emotions such as anger, denial, depression, sadness, joy, gratitude and eventually acceptance. Have a support system of family, friends and counseling to help you process the loss and create a new life for yourself. Do not immediately get into another relationship. Take the time to process what happened, learn from the relationship and get yourself into a healthy place before you begin your next relationship.

If you know someone going through a relationship break up, do not judge or shame them. No one makes these decisions lightly and only the two who were in the relationship understand what was really going on between them. Give them grace, pray for them and support them in whatever way you can.

Relationship Expectations

We all come to relationships with our expectations of what we believe will happen when we date, live with another person, or commit to marriage. One of the things that I noticed when working with couples is how they failed to discuss these expectations with each other ahead of time. Perhaps you have experienced some of these:

  • The Bible Says: Partners accuse each other of not doing what they are supposed to do according to the Bible. They use Bible verses as weapons to beat each other up with.
  • Comparison game: People compare their relationship to others or what some book said and then try to force their relationship to meet these expectations.
  • Obligation & Duty: You do things for your partner out of fear, obligation, or guilt because it is what is expected of you to do, leading to feelings of defensiveness, resentment or bitterness.
  • Meet my needs: This is too much pressure to put on another person. Only God can meet your needs. God may work through your partner to make this happen, or he may use other people in addition to your partner.
  • Be like me: Why can’t my partner just do things my way, think like me, feel like me, or believe what I believe. You then judge, accuse, criticize, manipulate, or become offended or defensive instead of seeking to understand your partner.
  • We have to agree: The point is not to decide whose values and beliefs are right or wrong but to understand the reasons each of you has for your values and beliefs. Acceptance does not always mean you like or agree with your partner, but it does mean you will not judge your partner as being wrong.
  • Read my mind: If you really loved me, you would know what I want, need, am thinking/feeling, I should not have to tell you. This is what I call lazy communication. Rather than take the time to learn how to communicate well your partner, you link this unrealistic expectation to love and pour on some guilt.
  • The Vow: I can do whatever I want in the marriage because you said you would be with me till death do us part. Hence, a spouse will sometimes become selfish, lazy, abusive, inconsiderate or take their partner for granted
  • You can’t Change!
    • People should not be the same at forty as they were at twenty-five. Therefore, they will sometimes grow apart and have little in common anymore.
    • People feel threatened and insecure when a partner goes through changes.
    • If a partner changes for the worse, divorce may be necessary for the safety of the family.

Relationships work best when two individuals create the relationship to look and feel however they want. While it may be easier to form your relationship based on what marital or spiritual books suggest, this can add conflict because you are trying to force someone else’s ideas on who the two of you are and want to be. While it takes more time and effort to communicate deeply and openly with each other and talk about your relationship expectations, what you create will be more satisfying and long lasting because it is uniquely yours, unlike any other relationship out there.  Then, be willing to revisit the relationship expectations and adjust along the way as you both grow and mature through life. Not all relationships were meant to last a lifetime. Some will come and then go when their purpose has expired, and it is usually best to release your partner rather than forcing them to remain in a loveless relationship.



Cant We All Just Get Along?

While people often ask this question, our society has been set up to insure this idea of everyone getting along does not consistently happen. From a young age we are trained to see those different from ourselves as our enemy. We are trained to compete against each other.  We are trained not to trust each other. We are trained to blame others rather than taking personal responsibility. We see this in politics, religion, education, sports, economics and in many other areas. One of the things that fuels this “us versus them” mindset is competition. Competition has been around for a long time because it does have some positive aspects such as:

  • Encourages us to strive to be better than we thought we could be
  • Teaches us to set goals and to keep after them
  • Not to give up when things get difficult
  • Keeps us from becoming lazy and mediocre.

However, competition also has some negative aspects that prevent us from getting along with each other. It sets us up to have winners and losers and our value and worth as a person is determined by if we win or lose. Rather than seeing you as an equal, I put you down, instill fear in you, see you as an enemy, verbally attack/taunt/bully you, so I can win rather than you. It is hard to feel love toward another person when you are treating them this way. While competition will most likely always be apart of our culture, I would like to encourage you to consider the benefits of cooperation.

  • You are valued, wanted, loved, and accepted for who you are, not for what you do.
  • You work together to help each other meet your needs or wants.
  • You feel loved whether you win or lose.
  • You can celebrate who you are without having to prove yourself against anyone else.
  • You value other people and do what you can to help others, not just yourself.
  • Because you feel love toward others, you seek to understand them rather than fear your differences.
  • You live with less anxiety when you are not competing against each other.
  • It is easier to trust people when you are working with them rather than opposing them.
  • You see yourselves connected to each other.

As you interact with people this week, whether is it co-workers, friends or family members, start noticing the times you find yourself competing versus cooperating with them. When you find yourself competing, ask yourself why, who is it benefiting, how does it make you feel, how does it affect the one you are competing against, it is helping you get along with others? And when you are can, choose cooperation over competition. Let us celebrate and seek to understand and respect the differences between us rather than trying to prove we are better than someone else. We are all part of the human family, all from the same Creator God Source. We can all get along when we choose to.





Who are the Others?

Jesus taught that we could not love our neighbor until we first loved ourselves (Mark 12:31). The past few blogs were about loving ourselves so today I am going to start blogging on relationships, how to love those “others, our neighbors.”

So, who are these “others?’ Those you like and those you don’t. Those who believe like you and those who don’t. Those who think, feel and act like you and those who don’t. We are trained in our culture to put everyone into categories and then associate with the ones most like us and avoid anyone we deem different. But that is not what Jesus did. He associated with the rich and the poor, those in the temple and those outside of it, those who were healthy and those who were sick, those in the city, those in the country. Jesus understood the concept that we all came from the same source, Creator God, so we are all connected to each other. Everyone is our brother or sister. And when we mistreat one, we are mistreating ourselves. For everything we do, say, believe, think, feel has a ripple effect on everyone else. So, while we think “this is my life” and “I can do whatever I want” the reality is, while we have the freedom to make our own choices, our choices do affect people beyond ourselves.

Following are some things I have noticed about our relationships with others:

  1. We like to focus on fixing the other person rather than focusing on our own stuff.
  2. We project our own stuff onto other’s, so we don’t have to face it.
  3. We look to others to make us happy when true happiness can only come from within.
  4. We love to pass judgement on others.
  5. We think we know what is best for others and attempt to convince them of this.
  6. We fear those who are not like us instead of seeking to understand them.

Every day as we interact with others we can choose to bless, love and serve them or we can choose to harm, manipulate or control them. We can accept people for who they are and seek to understand them or we can judge them and attempt to change them. We can hold things against them or we can forgive them. The Bible teaches that people will know us by our love, it is genuine love for each other that will draw people to the God of Love.

Remember, when you meet anyone, it is a holy encounter, you are both God’s children.

Free to be You

Once you can love yourself, you have the freedom to be yourself, something few people are able to do. Why is it so hard to be you? Could it be that most people have no idea of who they really are? So many people live their lives trying to please others to earn love or approval. They believe the lie that if they can look and act like everyone else, wear the right label, live in the right neighborhood, make enough money, or hang out with the right people, they will be happy, loved, and at peace. They look to celebrities, sports figures, or the popular person at school or work to define who they are, what they drive, and what music they listen to. They look to the media and allow what they see and hear on television, the Internet, movies, or books influence how they feel about themselves. They play the comparison game and can always find someone better looking, with a better job, making more money, or with a better-looking man or woman.

  • Who makes up these rules?
  • Why is it that those who buck the system and choose to be different get bullied and made fun of?
  • Why do we as parent’s stress conformity over uniqueness with ourselves and with our children?

Your identity and value cannot be based solely on what others think of you, because their thoughts and feelings toward you can change by the hour, day, or week. If you judge yourself by what others think, your self-worth goes up and down like a yo-yo, and you struggle to consistently feel stable or peaceful. You are kept on this emotional roller coaster by fear of what others will say or think about you. If you are different, if you do not conform, if you do not agree, if you choose to look, act, think, or believe differently, you could be rejected rather than loved. You become a people pleaser. You focus on what you think you will lose rather than on what you will gain my being yourself. Loving self is learning how to stand up for you and confidently be the person God created you to be even when others may not like or love you.

Fall in love with who you are and embrace your authentic self. Start with something small such as wearing a style of clothes or a hairstyle that expresses who you are. Listen to music, read books, or eat food that you really enjoy rather than live out the expectations of others. You may not win a popularity contest, make the most money, or die with the most toys left behind. However, you will enjoy your life, get to do what you love, and spend time with those you love and who love you in return. And you will be free—free to be you.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you somebody else is the greatest accomplishment” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why is it so Hard to Love Me?

Jesus taught that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:31). So if we  do not love ourselves, we will have a difficult time loving others. In last week’s blog I wrote about how some of you were taught that loving yourself was selfish. Today I am going to give you a few more reasons why you may struggle to love yourself.

  1. You have been taught to focus on everything that is wrong with you. You especially see this in the media messages that show “perfect” looking people. You are taught to compare yourself to others and can always find something that does not measure up and needs to be fixed. Then the sales pitches come in about all the things you need to buy to make yourself feel better, so you can feel happy. The subliminal message is that you cannot love yourself unless you are perfect or happy. The truth is God loves you just as you are with all your imperfections, so you can choose to love yourself just as you are!
  2. Some of you may have had negative words spoken over you. You were told you were too fat/skinny/tall/short/boring/stupid/the words are endless. As children growing up you interpreted these lies as truths about you and they continue to control your life today. It is time to start speaking positive words of love over yourself.
  3. Religions often teach that because you are a sinner, you are not worth loving. However, when you receive the truth Jesus taught, you are free, and sin becomes a choice rather than your identity. You can now see yourself as God sees you—through the image of love rather than the image of sin.
  4. You all have parts of yourselves that you deem “bad” which you believe disqualify you from loving yourself. You may try to cover up and pretend the “bad” parts of you do not exist and fear you could be shunned by others if these parts were revealed. However, we are all made up of good and bad. We all do things we later regret. When you can freely admit your imperfections and not judge yourself harshly for them, they will lose their power over you. God’s love can then come in and heal these parts of you.
  5. You were taught that thinking highly of yourself was being prideful. It is only prideful when you are boasting about yourself because inside you feel insecure so are trying to find a way to build yourself up in the eyes of others. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in something you have accomplished or done well.
  6. You do not see yourself as God perceives you. You were created in the image of Creator God. Therefore, you are an amazing, creative, powerful, loving human being. You are worthy of loving.

When you choose not to love yourself, you are essentially telling God that he made a mistake because you are not worth loving. Have you ever created an artwork, a recipe, a song, or a solution to a problem that you loved but others did not like it? How did you feel? Hurt, angry, frustrated, sad? Perhaps this is how God feels when you do not love the unique person he created you to be. As you go through this list, make note of any that you resonate with and then pray and ask God to help you work through the reasons why you do not love yourself. If you need to, seek counseling so you can learn how to love yourself. Remember the words of Jesus, you cannot love others until you first love yourself. This is why it is so important that we learn what healthy self-love looks and feels like. Since God created you, the very presence of God resides within you and wants to express itself through you. You are worth celebrating! You are worth loving!

“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small.  My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.”      Kim McMillen