Sexual abuse is such a terrible crime. The thing meant to connect people (sexuality) is used to hurt people. Rightly so the slogan: sexual abuse is abuse, not sex. Minimizing sexual abuse is abusing a victim all over again.
It is understandable and a good thing that people (and prosecutors in particular) stress that sexual violators darken the lives of their victims. The violation is grisly and nothing should diminish the painful results.
Having been victimized often means a trauma too heavy to carry. Often, the victim spends years in denial, self-blame, and despair before they seek help—if at all. Most victims until now have taken their dark secrets into their graves. Basic trust and relationships (life itself) shattered, putting good people who could have helped out of reach. Doors to all kinds of addictions and self-harm opened, only to forget and not feel the pain.
But. The above is used to prosecute and not let the perpetrators get away. But that narrative can backfire. What does such an analysis do to victims? Yes, it takes them seriously. That’s good. But it also fortifies hopelessness and defeatism. Victims of sexual abuse got severely hurt, but they are not ‘damaged goods.’ They are still the wonderful people that they were before the assault. There is hope for (slow) healing over (much) time.
The life of the victims is more important than that of the perpetrators. Surely, lawyers to defend the latter will try to abuse that line, but it’s still true. More than focusing on the punishment or neutralizing of the villain, we need to concentrate on the fate of the innocent who were violated.
We need to stop saying that sexual abuse hurts someone for life. That is too bleak. That is only true without prolonged and deep therapy. Judges won’t abuse hope for victims to be lenient on the violators. The opposite. They should make them pay for therapy. Lots of therapy. Years of therapy.
Talk therapy is not a solution for all people of all ages. Art therapy might be better. Or a support group. Yoga. The AA or another detox program. Relationship, family, phobia, assertiveness therapy. Dating coaching.
NB: Many serial perpetrators select vulnerable people. Who’s going to believe a ‘mental case’ over ‘mister perfect’? Or someone poor, from a vulnerable minority group, outcasts, etc. Such victims get more hurt than victims ‘in top shape.’ So, therapy first needs to bring victims in a good enough state to address recovering from the assault. Years. Decades.
Hope for victims of sexual abuse should not work out nicely for offenders. It should be used to make them pay for many years of therapy per victim.
Meanwhile, a serious problem is that most cases never go to trial.