We’ve thought a lot about language. What words people choose, how they speak, how words are interpreted or understood, how the listener reacts, all can have a huge effect on whether a given situation feels safe or threatening to whoever is present.
Some have asked why many words, which are commonly used by others in discussions about sexual abuse, are rarely, if ever found on our website – words like “predator”, “perp”, “perpetrator”, “pervert,” “abuser”, “molester”, “sex offender”, “rapist”, and “victim” among them. Getting in touch with anger and loss can be a valuable part of healing. And using any of these words (and others) about those involved, and experiencing the emotions and the images they evoke, are valid, useful, perhaps sometimes even necessary steps for a man in the process of understanding his feelings and the dynamics of his abuse.
Anger is the one emotion that social norms for males encourage men to express. But men actually have a much richer emotional life. Men – including men who’ve experienced abuse – can also feel sadness, and fear, and betrayal, and shame and hope and tenderness and love. We’ve found that once men in their healing process move beyond coming to terms with anger, holding onto defining words like “abuser”, “sex offender”, “perpetrator” and “victim”, runs the risk of forever locking the people who were involved in the abusive interaction into set roles. Always thinking of the person who abused you in that role can also keep them seeming larger than life – and you smaller. With healing comes the realisation that in the present, you needn’t continue to relate to them as an all-powerful adult (or older child); or yourself, forever as a powerless child.