The Deeper Reasons Why Men Abuse Women

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The underlying cycle and the hidden cause no one wants to talk about.

We continue to be shocked when we learn about another case of sexual abuse perpetrated by powerful men. The names of rich and powerful abusers are well known to us and include Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Roy Moore.

A few, like Louis C.K., acknowledged their abusive behavior. 

"These stories are true," C.K. said. "At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my d–k without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your d–k isn't a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly."

Most, like movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, continue to deny the charges.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied the rape allegations in a statement provided to CNN.

"Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein," the statement read. "Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances."


RELATED: The Actual Definitions Of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Harassment For People Who Think The Rules Have Changed


So, why do men abuse women?

As a therapist for nearly fifty years, I have treated many men who have abused women and I have treated men who have been abusers. I’ve also treated men who have abused other males and women who have abused boys and girls.

What I have learned over the years is that nearly every person I have treated who have abused another person, were themselves abused when they are young. That doesn't mean that everyone who was abused, neglected, abandoned, or harmed as a child will go on to abuse others.

It does mean that those who abuse others, were themselves often abused in the past.

Here’s a story told to me by a fellow therapist, Richard Strozzi Heckler, author of In Search of the Warrior Spirit:

"I’m waiting in line at the post office, preparing to send a package to the East Coast. A young mother steps up to the counter, looking harried, and holding on to the hand of her 2-year-old boy. He’s a cute little kid, but he’s restless and probably hungry. He tugs on her arm. ‘Mommy, let’s go, let’s go,’ he whines. She tells him to quiet down as she looks through her purse looking for money to pay for the stamps she has just purchased. The little boy puts his hand in her purse and pulls out her keys. She grabs them back. ‘That’s enough, now. Stop it.’ Her voice is shrill and she’s clearly losing patience. He continues looking in her purse."

Richard’s voice is calm, but as I listened I could picture the explosion that was about to happen. We’ve all seen these kinds of encounters before.

"Turning quickly, she slaps him hard across the face. ‘I told you to stop!’ she shrieks. The two people in front of me turn their heads away. The clerk at the desk smiles consolingly and passes her stamps across to her.

I felt the anger surge through me. I wanted to grab and shake her. ‘He’s just a little kid,’ I wanted to yell. But I didn't do or say anything. I watched the little boy’s face grow red and he let out a howl. The mother turned towards him, raised her hand and again and looked like he was going to get another slap. ‘Don’t pull that on me,’ she hissed through clenched teeth. The boy quieted and swallowed his cries. His sucking gasps were even more heart-breaking than the shrieks of rage."

"Damn," I told Richard. "That’s horrible and all too common." I’d been in situations like that. "You feel so helpless. You want to stop the assault, but you don’t know what to do."

"Yes, and it happened so fast, quicker than I can tell the story," Richard went on. "I was stunned and surprised and by the time I could say anything, it was over, the woman and boy left the post office, the line moved up, and things went back to normal."

But there was more to Richard’s story that put the experience in a larger context:

"I was reading an article recently about a bar in Dearborn, Michigan. They have events on Friday nights called Rambo Wet-Panty Night. On those nights the men in the bar are given black, plastic squirt guns. They are shaped like smaller versions of Uzi submachine guns and they’re made to shoot hard streams of water, instead of bullets. On these nights, women come on stage dressed in t-shirts and panties. Rock music plays and the guys shoot their guns at the women’s breasts and crotches."

I’d never been to a bar like that, but I could easily imagine the scene as Richard continued with his story.

"The bartender encourages the men, ‘Shoot the damned guns! If you guys were like this in Vietnam, we would have won the War!’ The women being shot at pretended to be turned on by the experience, and maybe some were, but I suspect most were hoping to win the $200 prize money for being the best at being shot at while looking wet and sexy."

"The reporter who wrote the article interviewed some of the shooters. ‘You work hard all day, and this is a release. This way I get some aggression out,’ said a worker at a plastics manufacturing company. ‘You don’t get to do something like this every day. How many times do you get to shoot a girl in the pussy? This is great,’ says an auto worker."

Richard breathed a sigh of sadness and recognition as he concluded his story:

"It’s as though the boy in the post office will someday grow up and go to a bar like this and blast women with his gun and have no idea about the real reason for his anger. His wife will be pissed off at him for being out without her, for being out late, and coming home again smelling of alcohol and cigarettes. She’ll take her anger out on their son. This son will grow up and take it out on other women. Where does the cycle of violence end?"


RELATED: A Letter To 10-Year-Old Me, Who Was Repeatedly Sexually Abused


In reflecting on the mother hitting her son and the son growing up to shoot symbolic bullets at women’s crotches, I realize that if we are going to end the abuse cycle and protect vulnerable individuals from abuse, we have to recognize and understand the underlying causes of sexual harassment and abuse.

The current news headlines would have us believe that males are the abusers and females are the victims. But if are willing to look more deeply we will see that the underlying causes of sexual abuse in adulthood are childhood, abuse, neglect, and abandonment.

In the story I recounted above, we can see the connection of a mother who abuses a boy and that boy growing up to shoot water bullets at women’s crotches. But we also have to ask, what happened to that mother when she was a child that caused her to be so angry towards her son.

When we do, we often will find an abusive father or other male relatives.

Since actress Alyssa Milano called on women to speak about their experiences of sexual harassment or assault with the #MeToo movement, created by Tarana Burke, bringing it to the mainstream, over 12 million stories have been shared.

We also need to hear the stories of men who have been abused. There are still many who do not talk about abuse and we need more truth-telling, which takes a great deal of courage. I know it took me a long while to acknowledge that I was sexually abused by my mother and a woman neighbor when I was four years old.

Sexual abuse of adults by others is now out in the open. It's time we opened our eyes to the underlying causes of adult abuse that occur in childhood.

What happened to Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Roy Moore, when they were children? What happened to you?


RELATED: 7 Myths About Male Sexual Abuse That We Must Stop Believing


Jed Diamond is a licensed psychotherapist with a Ph.D. in International Health and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

This article was originally published at menalive.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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