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The impact of sexual abuse on female development: a longitudinal study (nih.gov)
296 points by PaulHoule 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 358 comments

[trigger warning]

I'm a woman. I was physically and sexually abused by my father as a child. The impact it's had on me is painful to describe. I was working as a software engineer in the tech industry and was constantly experiencing PTSD symptoms being surrounded by men -- though by no fault of their own, it was totally because of what my father did to me.

It's been a frustrating journey. The sexual abuse happened to me at such a young age that I didn't realize until now, in my 30s, that I was molested. I feel completely robbed of my life -- to feel constant panic, anxiety, and depression for no fault of my own. It's been an expensive journey of therapy and various treatments to try to reach a stabilizing baseline. It's been an embarrassing journey -- as a software engineer, I am extremely competent. I just cannot work with men, apparently..

I'm glad studies like this are coming out to validate experiences of fellow incest survivors. A book instrumental in my understanding and healing also: The Body Keeps Score.

Thanks to whomever read this. I wrote it mostly to experience sharing my story publicly, and reducing to myself the shame that exists of being a child abuse survivor.

As a man, is there anything I can do or avoid doing in the workplace to make it easier for coworkers like you? Let's assume I don't know and don't suspect anything specific about my coworkers. I just want to know if there's anything that would be pretty easy to implement, that would make a difference.

Mike Pence rule. Don't ever be alone with a vulnerable person without a neutral third party being present, it wreaks havoc on the threat-detection instinct. As the saying goes, "you're not paranoid if someone really is out to get you."

He asked how to make things easier for his vulnerable coworkers, not how to cover his ass.

Honestly, my suggestion would be to be open about your own experiences and the impact they've had on you. (Not necessarily abuse, but just offhand comments like 'oh, it's silly but I can't stand yelling because my dad yelled a lot' or 'I don't drink because my family's had issues with it', etc.) Be open and clear that a.) you don't judge people for being 'weird' and b.) you accept things other people need even if you don't need them.

Don't be overly emotional about it. Just accept their human needs in the same way you would if a coworker had a disability. Oh, that person needs more space between us? Alright. Not any different than a hard of hearing coworker who needs me to speak up a bit, or a visually impaired coworker who uses zoom on their computer.

My saying, "Hey, I have a bit of anxiety so I'm going to gather myself for a moment; do you think you could step back and give me some space and we could try to pitch this conversation a bit quieter?" shouldn't be much different than my needing a stepstool. I'm short. It happens.

If you treat the people around you as individuals, then people understand they can ask you for what they need.

> Honestly, my suggestion would be to be open about your own experiences and the impact they've had on you.

I'd imagine that many people would disagree with this. Dwelling on people's supposed 'weirdness' is not a healthy attitude (least of all when the 'weirdness' is our own) and would not be seen as "open" or "accepting" by many, but more of a signal of entitlement. If you think that the other person would benefit from something, just behave accordingly without dwelling on it, and people will hopefully realize that they can ask you for these things with no fuss.

Billy Graham was the originator of the concept in his ministry [0].

Not only does it help prevent things from happening that could be a problem later, it helps prevent even accusations of such, if it's well known that the person involved holds to this rule and expects others to hold them to it as well. Say what you will about Pence, love him or hate him, nobody is accusing him of sexual misconduct - and that's the point of the rule.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Graham_rule

It's much much much older than that, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yichud

It doesn't prevent abuse by a close family member though.

Interesting, I'd assumed there was history before Graham (it's an obvious enough thing), but wasn't aware of the details. Thanks!

This can disadvantage those people in other ways though. Just trying to get work done, it helps to be able to drop into someone's office without arranging for a chaperone. Or stopping by somewhere without checking the number and gender of people who will be there ahead of time.

> it helps to be able to drop into someone's office without arranging for a chaperone.

You can leave the door to the office open at all times. Or use a glass wall or door so people can see in, but maybe not overhear.

One principled solution would be to apply the rule to everyone you interact with.

In practice that's likely quite difficult.

Shocking that this is getting upvotes.

The only way to treat this as gospel is to never be present with another woman alone.

That the tech industry is so inept with opposite gender interactions that they have adopted tactics from religious zealot evangelicals is APALLING.

Treat people as humans. Regardless of gender or sexuality.

The whole premise of the workplace is to not treat people as humans, but as coworkers.

Sex is one of the most essentially human things. "Professional" behaviour excludes sex.

So "treat people as humans" is decisively not clear advice for cases like this.

That's a very dehumanizing statement to me. I would never want to work at a place that doesn't treat its employees as humans. That doesn't mean I condone sex at the workplace, but I would not accept to be treated as less than a full human being.

Humans are not automata, and I don't aspire to be one, not even for "just" 8 hours a day.

The way you are expected to interact with humans in the VAST MAJORITY of situations is closer to how you are expected to interact with coworkers in a professional setting, than to a speed dating event or a crowded bar after midnight.

We're not having orgies in the street. In modern society you are expected to treat humans in the vast majority of situations without "sex" being relevant to the topic of discussion, whether it's on the street, in the grocery store, on the tram, or in the library.

Acting like this is not clear feels like an exercise in pedantic loophole seeking to justify sexual harassment. ("How are people even supposed to meet each other if I'm not allowed to <blank> to women in <blank>?")

False dichotomies galore.

First of all, the "VAST MAJORITY" of human interactions are irrelevant (cashier, bank clerk, passing people on the street). Given how much time you spend with coworkers, they'd qualify as friends, or acquaintances at least.

Also, there's a large gap between "professional behaviour" and "orgies in the street" or "sexual harassment". For example, I don't mind talking about menstruation or condoms with friends (who I'm not having sex with, nor have/would I ever try) but I don't think those would be appropriate topics for most workplace situations.

Your life must be quite different from mine. My casual conversations with my friend group - who are 20s and 30s liberals, mixed gender - are not office appropriate. I would certainly not bring any of the regular political debates into work either.

The amount of sex related conversation in my friend group is, from my perspective, normal but entirely inappropriate for work. Even my female barber talks about her sex life during haircuts.

At work I keep my sarcasm set to near zero, avoid politics, religion, and sex, and generally keep a narrow focus. Work is an artificial environment, but my coworkers don't get to choose me. It is on me to behave in a way that is beyond reproach.

Remember the context: OP literally advocated for never being alone with a woman without a third party present.

Yes, I have conversation with friends that are not work-appropriate.

And I also have conversations with coworkers that are casual and work-appropriate. Yet they can be friendly and reference current events (which are inherently political), religion (e.g. acknowledging ramadan fasting), sexuality (gender of partner), or the existence of sex (parenting). OK that last one is a stretch.

But still, you can do all this without needing to firewall your entire personality.

Ironically, the tech industry has provided an alternative solution - cameras recording everything everywhere. Dash cams to provide proof of what happened in collisions, workplace cameras to reduce liability for employers and also helps protect employees, home cameras also for liability reduction as well as protection against police lying about what happened…etc.

Costs vs. benefits and all. It's hardly unreasonable if you're risk-averse.

As much as it sounds like an overreacting CYA tactic, it does at least have the side effect of creating safe spaces.

I might find the intentions dubious, but I can't argue with the results.

Ensure that there is more than one woman around in your company. Ensure your workplace policies are friendly and flexible for people who need mental health days, address family time, get pregnant, need sanitary equipment, parent children or other dependents, etc. Ensure all the women at your company have opportunities to work with and have women co workers, or women friendly gatherings like lunches, and be open to feedback to change policy accordingly once you have enough women coming together during their talks that they can suggest changes collectively.

Being the sole woman in a company of men when means your superiors are men, your peers are men, and the only recourse you may have if any of them act inappropriately towards you is to report it to another man.

Edit: respect boundaries and consistently remind that if they have a boundary they are free to enforce and you will respect that. Boundaries come in the form of more than “please don’t x”. They are also “I prefer x” or “can we y”.

> consistently remind that if they have a boundary they are free to enforce and you will respect that.

The clearest and most effective way of doing this is to proactively establish and propose safe boundaries for the other person's benefit. This is the underlying dynamic behind many rules-of-thumb of ordinary courtesy and politeness (often wrongly dismissed as some sort of useless, obsolete 'traditionalism'). Not everyone is so assertive and comfortable with themselves that they should be expected to verbalize their boundaries to you, or even to understand them proactively.

Fellow man, here, but I think I have something of value to add:

Learning to be open and friendly, and developing a sense for when someone doesn't want to talk to me has been an important part of growing up. I try to identify signals that a person wants to end their interaction with me, and respect their wishes immediately and in a friendly way.

Being "open and friendly" is no good when someone literally has shell shock(!) (aka PTSD) from interacting with people like you. You'll need to behave in such a way as to demonstrate to them that they can intuitively and securely trust you not to be an immediate physical threat, nor to pose any in the foreseeable future.

The quick rule-of-thumb is to be courteous and respectful but also establish very firm physical boundaries, even erring towards being less friendly as opposed to more. You also need to proactively signal that you will stop interacting with them at the slightest sign of their discomfort; keeping interactions short and to the point is an obvious way to do this, even though this outwardly looks "rude" and "unfriendly"!

Developmentally caused PTSD and shell-shock/war/later event PTSD have some differences.

For instance, those of us with developmentally-caused trauma often view every person as a threat, because we were abused by our caregivers. (In my case, my mother.) This is because we need our abusers to survive, so we're used to abuse being a necessary part of life and something that can happen at any time/during mundane interactions. We don't feel like anyone is safe. The only person my nervous system trusts is my baby sister. Trying to get me to recognize you as safe isn't going to work, because nobody is safe to me.

I realize that not everybody is a danger and my feelings are the result of my failing the parental lottery and not a commentary on every person I meet, which means it's my responsibility/job to retrain/calibrate my 'who is safe' sensors. It just takes practice and some patience sometimes.

People refusing to interact with me because they have different genitals than me isn't going to help, especially when most of my hobbies are male-dominated. It just conveys 'Ha, you're not a proper girl, so you don't deserve friends. Go learn to like clothes and boys if you want to hang out with people'.

Now, if you've been burned in the past by people using their mental illnesses to blame you for not understanding social cues, or had that used against you in the past, and you don't feel comfortable in mixed-sex interactions, that's fine, but that's a need of YOURS, not the women.

> Trying to get me to recognize you as safe isn't going to work, because nobody is safe to me.

This makes plenty of sense, but then I'm not sure why you're expecting others to be physically friendly with you. Having a "friendly" interaction with someone generally presupposes some degree of physical quasi-intimacy that would seem to be quite incompatible with "not feeling like anyone is safe" to be around. This doesn't mean you can't be friendly in many other ways of course, but these interactions will nonetheless be quite different from what folks might otherwise expect.

This is very interesting to me because this might be a huge sex socialization difference: I'm friendly, including physically, with people I would rather not be at least occasionally.

There's a couple of reasons for this:

1.) If you're a young, small, female, people will be in your space whether you want them there or not. Keeping it "friendly" makes sure that it doesn't turn violent. (Note: This isn't just from men: My go to example of a person disrespecting my space was a woman in undergrad who, upon meeting me for the first time, picked me up because I was so small and 'cute' to her.) Luckily, I'm over 30 and an old hag now! 10/10 do recommend. V. helpful!

2.) As a female, I'm expected/allowed to offer comfort to people, and that includes physically, so I'll do things like hug my friends when they're sad if they like hugs because I still want to support them even if I have PTSD. Or I hug and take care of my little sister because I know touch is important for her mental health and I value that. I also occasionally offer childcare/ have nieces and nephews or am in gatherings with children, and they touch.

I generally let people, and people know that I/Aunt Mezzie needs some quiet sometimes.

I also have MS and malfunctioning nerves; I view them similarly. "Wow, my brain has a lesion and now I can't feel my feet what." and "Wow, I'm traumatized and now I can't relax around people I like what."

> If you're a young, small, female, people will be in your space whether you want them there or not.

It's precisely when you're "young, small" etc. that this is not OK. These people are not being "friendly" to you, they should know better. And you're quite free to remove yourself physically from the interaction if they keep invading your boundaries.

> so I'll do things like hug my friends when they're sad

At least then you're initiating and thus controlling the interaction, with an acquaintance who's OK with it. It's not anything that you should be forced to do, but having one's boundaries be actively transgressed upon would likely be more stressful.

I'm also a woman in my 30s, and you're not the only one.

My PTSD isn't sexually related (I was neglected + emotionally/physically abused, but not sexually), but working was so difficult for me until I got my current, WFH job. I didn't realize how much being in a state of constant physical distress was taking a toll on my wellbeing. It's exhausting, and I wish you all the best.

I was drugged unconscious by a gay man in my early 20s, and "thankfully" I became conscious at the beginning of whatever he had planned; it took me months to even realize something had happened due to whatever drug he dosed me with fucked up my memory.

I had used MDMA recreationally years later and I knew that had helped my PTSD some, but it was only when I did a session years later in a therapeutic setting, just myself and the facilitator, was I able to fully connect to, sit with, and process what happened to me; literally the stimuli of what I would/should have felt then was able to process - as if it was stuck, once processed allowing my body to no longer think it was in that situation (so heightened stress state, heightened baseline stress reduced greatly).

MAPS.org (Multi-Disciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) relatively recently did clinical trials with 100 treatment resistant participants, to treat veterans with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. They had an average of 17.5 years of treatment resistant PTSD. After 1 year, 80% of the placebo group had no improvement, 20% had some. With just 2-3 sessions where MDMA was given, after just 1 year, 80% of participants no longer qualified for PTSD diagnoses - and 20% had some or none - a complete reversal. From my experience it's true - it just allows you to connect to overwhelming/overriding stress that short-circuits your system, allows it to flow and essentially melt away - though it can take talking about it to put the experience into words, to process it, to help by breathing through it, etc.

All this to say that even if you have ever done MDMA recreationally, e.g. gone out dancing with a partner or friends, I'd recommend anyone who hasn't done it in a different context, a "safer" or quieter/therapeutic environment, where you're not using music and other people to distract from yourself - then I'd recommend people look into doing it; there will slowly be legal clinics opening up, though I've not kept track of who's leading that at the moment or where the progress is. E.g. there may be more depth to the experiences that you'll be able to process with the help of MDMA causing more serotonin to release at once than it can on its own, and the only way to know is to try.

I just listened to a podcast where they were talking about this. And that's pretty much what they said.

Basically MDMA and/or psilocybin allow you to essentially disassociate from the the emotions of the event. You're able to talk about and work through the events without also being overwhelmed by the emotions of the event.

But yeah, it's not just popping shrooms or pills and you're magically healed. It's about being in that setting with someone who can therapeutically work you through the trauma. You still need to do the work, but MDMA and/or psilocybin can greatly facilitate the process.

I love that this got a few downvotes.

Hey just wanted to say thanks for sharing your story. Not that you owe it to anyone, but I hope the public presence of people working through these issues will help the next generation of survivors to have a more easily found path forward.

Thanks for sharing. It really does make a difference.

Most people's guess as to the rate of occurrence of this kind of abuse would be off by an order of magnitude or more.

In the past 5 years I've become privy to so many dark experiences of close female friends and family. What used to be an outlier experience is now almost.. common? More than one woman I've dated has had to preface intimacy with a harrowing experience. It's been hard for me to deal with this knowledge about people I love, but nevertheless is the truth and must be told.

Take care. I hope the remote work world has helped.

The Body Keeps the Score is honestly a must-read, but it can be deeply challenging. Reading that book helped me uncover even more childhood trauma that I wasn't really actively processing or recognizing as abuse until then. So it was an extra challenge on top of the trauma I was already dealing with.

And for what it's worth, I also am a SWE, and I also struggle working around men. 90% of the time, the men I work with are awesome, supportive, nice, etc. But the trauma informs that 10% where I feel invalid, not seen, objectified... all that fun stuff. It's challenging and I don't think trauma has ever been brought up as a challenge in the workplace when there's no trauma directly in the workplace, if that makes sense. I certainly haven't directly connected it before this.

A former colleague and lover of mine was abused at home as a teen, and got married quite young in order to escape the situation. She did manage to have a quite successful career, ending in the C-suite at a major company.

I find this to be the most telling stat:

"In a few cases (N < 5) families were dropped from the comparison group because some history of sexual abuse was ascertained."

So roughly 5% (<5 of 84) of the control group were discovered to have themselves been abused and needed to be dropped from the study. I was once in a law lecture on medical ethics. We were discussing genetic testing of newborns and how this could detect incest/abuse. A medical doctor in the class was dead against such testing. In his experience, amongst pregnant teenagers (17 and younger) about 10% were pregnant by their own fathers/brothers. His opinion was that our society is not ready to deal with this, that such abuse is far more common than anyone is willing to admit. He actually said: You better build some more prisons before you start testing babies for this. The OP study seems in line with his numbers.

My wife was summoned for jury duty, and the case had to do with sexual abuse. At jury selection time they ask if a prospective juror would have difficulty being impartial because of the nature of the case. If you were uncomfortable discussing the matter, you could ask to be taken aside to discuss without the others in the room hearing it.

Out of a few dozen people, seven women left the room to explain why they could not be impartial, some of them returning in tears. They weren't gone for a short while, either, many of them took 20 or 30 minutes before returning to the court room. One of them was called back out of the room at the very end, and my wife suspects that she was actively being abused and this was an opportunity to seek help without the abuser being present.

This isn't something that I have to personally worry about if I'm by myself, but it's something that so many women do have to worry about all the time. I can't even imagine the burden that women must carry.

> This isn't something that I have to personally worry about if I'm by myself, but it's something that so many women do have to worry about all the time. I can't even imagine the burden that women must carry.

Not just women, but children. I was aware that I could be sexually assaulted/harrassed and what to do about it by the time I was 5, and I started getting uncomfortable comments in person around age 11. I'm also exceptionally lucky and have never actually been assaulted.

Not particularly relevant to most people here, but some of you will have daughters, so.

Edit: Also relevant potentially to your colleagues and co-workers, since one reason I stopped participating in tech spaces while I was a teenager (I still coded, just only alone or anonymously) was because I felt unsafe being a 13-14 year old girl who was the only female in a room/space with dozens of men, some of whom were 2-3 times my age. I don't think I can overstate the danger alarm bells, especially given how rampant homophobia was back then and I was also gay.

There's a considerable asymmetry here between men and women. I'm really curious about sussing it out and understanding how it develops.

At an early age, about 5 or so I was exposed to sex, with peers, male/female. Later I was raped through coercion by two older children at 10-ish, male/female. Additionally none of this was ever reported until adulthood.

As a male I've repeatedly been put in positions that I could describe as uncomfortable (though I don't, usually), pressured intimacy, catcalling, sexually forward girls/men...

Having gotten feedback from female peers in adulthood, I've gotten to wondering about the way that society tends to articulate sex and rape to women. The summary of framing that I've gotten from one of my intimates, is that at an early age women are given the impression that sex is their single lever in a relationship or socially. Sex is the only way which a woman can gain approval. Which, to me, seems like it would drastically amplify the experience of rape. There's also the puritanical considerations of virginity and slut shaming, etc... But I don't know that it's really a running theme in individual women.

And then there's the proactive modality. At the time of my rapes, I was not informed on rape or consent, and so the context wasn't that of violence, but simply commonplace arm twisting, and because it was as such I only ever saw that it could be framed as a traumatic episode much later. On the obverse, having been informed of such things as detestable, as violent, as traumatic and serious and driven to reporting it, I could imagine that it would escalate my feelings, and I suspect so would dealing with it externally with strangers and institutions and perhaps having some artificial narrative constructed by interlopers either directly or indirectly. I mean, consider having to talk to parents, police, social workers and so on it's implies a considerable escalation from the day-to-day. Especially as a child. Of course this seldom happens. I wonder if it's a sort of funeral psychology where you feel compelled to cry and mourn because that's what's implied, even if you don't feel the need.

But as a male having gone through these situations, without the framework being described, but rather having the privilege to describe it myself, it simply never evolved into a trauma. And I think this might be borne out by the statistics wherein boys/men simply do not report rape, just beyond the fact that it may happen less frequently. But having direct perspective on it, I wonder if I'm an oddball, or if trauma resulting from female rape is sort of amplified by the way women are socialized and informed.

this is the sort of conversation that must be conducted very delicately, but it is something I have also wondered, having had similar experiences myself.

quite a few times I have experienced unwanted sexual advances/touching/groping in public spaces from women I considered friends, in front of our other friends. I don't consider those events traumatic, but certainly uncomfortable at the time. I never knew what to do, so I would just freeze and pretend it wasn't happening. once I actually went through with it and had sex with the person because I felt I had led her on by allowing her initial advances (dumb of me in hindsight).

perhaps one important difference is that I was physically stronger than every one of those people. I could have resisted, but didn't due to (possibly imagined) social pressure. like I said, I don't think there is any lasting trauma over these events; I think of them more as misunderstandings than assaults. but at the same time, all of these women were otherwise quite vocal about feminism, consent, etc. I wonder what they would have called it if I'd done the same things to them.

>this is the sort of conversation that must be conducted very delicately,

Only because of the context.

If this were a conversation behind closed doors you could say what you wanted, people could disagree and eventually mutual understanding of people's opinions could be reached despite initial clumsy or imprecise wording.

But this is an internet conversation where if you pick the wrong words, speak too broadly or fail carpet bomb every sentence with carve outs for exceptions and special cases some jerk will swoop in and post a low effort rebuttal for the easy karma and off the rails it goes from there.

> at an early age women are given the impression that sex is their single lever in a relationship or socially

I can't speak for all eras and populations, but I suspect that that anecdote is an outlier.

> I wonder if I'm an oddball

If I may be so bold, you seem emotionally detached from the incident. That itself might be a response to the trauma.

I suppose I can't really say, it's something that happened decades ago. Like heartbreak of high school, it's sort of faded away into emotional oblivion, though it never really excited me. I'd say I can pretty readily identify thoughts and feeling of the events, recollect the environment, the people, but being they were so long ago there's no realistic way for me to verify.

Your experiences are your own, of course. The rest is theory you created, not fact or evidence. Other males who have been sexually abused certainly have trauma. Look at the victims of the Catholic Church and other well-known situations. I'm sure you can find plenty of research describing it.

EDIT: Also, many comments testify to it in this discussion.

>The rest is theory...

It's a hypothetical, I'm not intent on stating anything as fact.

>Look at the victims of the Catholic Church and other well-known situations.

Part of what I conjectured was that the system itself is potentially traumatic. And that (naive) interventions might hypothetically be damaging. Again, one is potentially braving a number of institutions, not just family, but police, case workers, mental health professionals. Not to mention in the case of familial abuse considerable transitions, up to foster care, itself from what I've heard is frequented by pederasts. Perhaps a window for a form of gaslighting, wherein the victim is induced to believe they're traumatized.

That is to say, that any well-known case, perhaps especially well-known cases would be outside the scope.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. (And I'm not offended.)

I'm both homosexual and visually impaired (I was legally blind until I was four years old), which overrode a lot of female/sex-specific messages. Women who are attracted to men may have received that message, but that's not the message as I interpreted it. As a young, conventionally-attractive (at the time, I'm old now) lesbian woman, sex was framed to me as something that men were always going to want from me and that I:

a.) could do nothing about this and

b.) got nothing from it; the most I could hope for was that it would be limited to comments

On the other hand, I was online as a kid and both age and sex/gender presentation were pretty fluid and what you're suggesting does track with how people approached sexual topics with me when they knew I was female versus when I was assumed to be a young male person (there are no girls on the Internet, remember).

One thing I find interesting in how male versus female victims discuss their assaults is that both focus on how traumatizing it is to be helpless, but the women who are traumatized usually focus more on the physical helplessness, while men who are traumatized usually focus more on the social helplessness. Neither is to be dismissed.

You're assuming that trauma is a matter of "framing", but it's at least as much a long-term consequence of the acute stress reaction that's directly connected to the event. I think it's possible that you experienced somewhat limited trauma, but others are not nearly as lucky.

Oh for sure I agree, like the prospect of dealing with sexual abuse with a direct family member over the length of a childhood adolescence and perhaps adulthood, and the various emergent effects certainly registers as several orders of magnitude more impactful than my experiences. And being that mine was coercive and not forcible, I don't have that direct experience. There's a wide gamut to run and I'm not intent on discounting anybody's experience. I'm more concerned with the amplification of that, y'know? Exacerbating the damage of people who've already been compromised.

As to the long-range effects, I don't really have a high resolution reference point pre- and post-incident, and history being what it is I've no control to compare against so I don't know how, if at all my behaviors are and were adjusted.

Agree; I find that such a frustrating part of trauma myself. I'm well aware it wasn't my fault, and I don't blame myself. It doesn't absolve me of the physical effects of all those stress hormones though...

This is well off the main thread here so please feel free to ignore my request, but as a loving parent of a 3 year-old girl, I worry about when/how do we explain to her what is and isn't okay for adults (and other kids) to do around her, and how she can protect herself, seek help or otherwise handle a situation.

Since you mentioned you were aware of the danger when you were as young as 5 - when and how would you suggest one could help let their daughter know about these risks without inducing some much fear and anxiety that will end up making her avoid too many positive experiences?

For a 3 year old, the important things are to make sure she knows she can come to you any time she feels uncomfortable. Also, there's no need to go into detail about it being a sex thing; you should approach it with the same level of detail you do the 'don't trust strangers' conversation. I knew that nobody should touch my private parts and mouth kissing was for grown-ups, like coffee, and if anybody tried, I should go find other adults + tell them. I couldn't have told you anything about why somebody would do that; I just knew there were bad grown ups, and that's about the level you're working with at 3 years old. There are bad grown ups (like whatever bad person in TV shows she watches), and if you find one, go get a good grown up right away. Emphasize most people are good and it's very rare, like how everybody in the family practices for a fire, and that we all watch out for one another. That sort of thing. (I don't know your parenting philosophy.)

I'm assuming you have a neurotypical, potty-trained 3 year old; it's more complex when things like toilet-help are involved, I know.

A friend who is ED of Safe Shores (DC Children's Advocacy Center) says that Good Touch, Bad Touch has fallen out of favor. Safe Shores uses Stewards of Children, developed by Darkness to Light, and staff members are certified trainers.

Perhaps reach out to Darkness to Light or your local (regional) children's advocacy center. Many states have more than one. Not sure about the status internationally, but in the US, I know this is the case.

In my 20+ years doing public policy advocacy on a number of issues related to children, I came across too many organizations that had the potential to harm children and families, through using poor prevention models, infidelity to the model, not understanding issues, thinking that doing something was enough. While I'm generally a fan of doing something is better than doing nothing, that is absolutely not the case with this topic.

Good luck!

With my kids, my wife and I teach the idea of consent from a really young age and reinforce it strongly amongst family members. No means no as long as it's their body or their possessions

And we back that up, forcefully. If my kid doesn't want a hug, they will not be getting a hug. If they don't want to share, they won't.

My kid's autonomy is worth way more than those relationships. Period.

And it's worth it. Your kids will naturally share when they feel comfortable doing so. They'll share affection when they feel comfortable. And longer term this extends into topics they're not mature enough to tackle at 3

>I started getting uncomfortable comments in person around age 11.

Agreed with this, I (woman) started getting regularly cat-called on the street every time I left my house around 12-13.

I was a young looking child to boot.

One of my high school friends told me her first creeper catcall was when she was 10. A guy in a pickup rolled alongside her for two blocks saying disgusting things and trying to convince her to get in the cab.

If we are removing all jurors who have been abused because they are 'not impartial', aren't we left with a collection of people who are totally ignorant?

The jury has to judge how a reasonable person would act in a certain situation, who is lying and who is telling the truth.

Off one end, we have victim blamind and rapists walking free, off another end, uk had "serial liar" who invented false rape allegations and sent 9 innocent people to jail.

Or, you know, abusers.

Which I consider a larger problem. Since so much abuse is hidden, the perpetrators also can sit on juries related to sexual assault cases. Delightful.

> The jury has to judge how a reasonable person would act in a certain situation, who is lying and who is telling the truth.

And they should do this by weighing the evidence impartially, not emotionally.

Exactly. The juror's ignorance or lack of direct experience with the alleged offense does not make him less able to evaluate the evidence. It is the prosecution's job to present the evidence with enough clarity to remove reasonable doubt.

But it does play a part if the jurors lack critical context. If no one on the jury can understand how a victim of sexual assault could be frozen during an attack, they might fall into the trap of thinking things like "how could it have been rape if she never said 'no'?" or alternatively, they could cling to some things like a male victim being aroused and assume that means the act was consensual. One could argue that this could simply be explained by the prosecution via expert witness - but I think we all know the Dunning-Kruger effect well enough by now to understand how that won't work in all cases.

I don't know if we should (or even can) aim to have a victim included on any set of jurors, but removing them altogether seems like a very bad strategy.

I think it is up to the prosecutor and expert witnesses to deal with that. The presumption is that the defendant is innocent. If the prosecution can not make a convincing case to an impartial jury (not an expert jury), then the defendant goes free. It's not perfect, but it seems better than the alternatives.

I think this is a fantasy - jury trials are the reason why you have patent trolls in the US, they don't understand first thing about intellectual property, it's a total clown show. Such meritless lawsuits get throws out of court in EU with a proffeshional judge.

The jury has to have basic grasp of the situation so that they can decide who is lying and who is telling the truth (and witnesses called by prosecution do lie).

Imagine being tried on sex abuse by people who never had a relationship, or an employment dispute judged by people who never had a job. It would be disaster.

The whole jury system in founded on ignorance. Both sides don't want anyone who was a cop, knows any cops, has studied the law, or was ever arrested. Often, people with any kind of higher education will be dismissed. Last time I went to jury duty they asked anyone who had ever been party to any legal matter to leave. It's pretty wild.

One of my philosophy professors was excluded from jury selection, and happened to run into the lawyer who excluded him shortly after in the bathroom, and asked why. The lawyer said it was because he wrote Philosophical Quarterly on his questionnaire, and that he routinely excludes people like my professor who are highly educated.

Why? my professor asked.

Because you don't listen to the lawyers or the judge, he was told. "Big brain" people try to play Matlock and solve the case themselves, or invent theories in their imagination, or get into absurd arguments in the jury room. They screw up the whole process that's designed to bring a high level of rigour and fairness to the situation--what should and shouldn't be considered, how the law applies, etc. They're wild cards that turn trials into a game of chance instead of an orderly adversarial confrontation that's heavily regulated.

People mock jurors routinely, especially the ones who explain their reasoning in interviews afterwards. But studies routinely find that judges agree with the jury's verdict about 80% of the time.

I see what they mean, but still doesn't seem good. I would assume "big brained" witness especially defendants are told by their lawyers to shut up for similar reasons, too.

Defendants often don't testify at all, it's impossible for them to be impartial and generally they can only hurt themselves. They have the presumption of innocence and they don't have to say a word to establish that.

Good points

Hans Reiser would almost certainly be free today if he hadn't overruled his lawyer and taken the stand in his own defence.

It sounds like he's basically saying that jury should be pro forma, rather than actually mattering.

No, because it's an adversarial process where the jury has to choose between the two sides. On each particular, one side wins and the other loses. Their decisions matter.

But here's the thing: their decisions, ideally, should be made on the basis of the evidence presented to them, their judgement of the credibility of the witnesses, and the instructions of the judge in how to map the facts as they determine them, to the law as described to them.

We shouldn't be okay with a juror voting guilty because of the defendent's race; we shouldn't be okay with someone who says "I'm just going to flip a coin"; I'm not sure it's a bad thing to exclude people who, in the experience of the lawyers trying the case, don't pay attention and invent their own rationales out of whole cloth and make an irrational decision by the standards of the legal reasoning the trial is supposed to provide.

What assures them that non "Big brain" people won't do the same thing? I think for most people it would more interesting running through the scenarios in your head, instead of listening to other people (lawyers) speak.

Their experience, I guess. I know that, of the university professors and professional engineers I know, they are some of the smartest and also some of the dumbest people I've ever met. It's like they invent new ways to be wrong, sometimes. I can easily imagine any of them in a jury room talking complete nonsense about who did what and why and how the law shouldn't be that way or mean that and so they have to acquit--anything but actually listen, follow along, and apply the judge's instructions.

A stupid person can make only certain, limited types of errors; the mistakes open to a clever fellow are far broader. But to the one who knows how smart he is compared to everyone else, the possibilities for true idiocy are boundless.

>> Both sides don't want anyone who was a cop

Except for cops. Cops certainly like to have fellow cops on their juries. There is an old joke about removing Manhattan jury cases to Staten Island. All the NYPD cops seem to retire there. So if the case involves potential police wrongdoing or even just police testimony, one side wants a Staten Island jury as many jurors will have at least some familial connection to the police.

The same thing happens with national security cases being tried in Virginia. This is one of the main reasons Snowden is unwilling to return to the US - the jury would be massively rigged against him.

Is it any more 'rigged' than many of jury trials that do go through?

I feel this case goes even further than the examples given. Not very familiar with US system, but suppose we had a case of a bar braul, would we ask anyone who has ever had a fight to leave?

If they came back in tears and were removed from the jury, then the system worked. A clearly impartial potential juror was removed and a past victim was saved from a horrible experience of sitting through such testimony. But what about those who have been abused but aren't in tears? This came up very recently. One of the Ghislaine Maxwell jurors discussed his history of being abused with other jurors. The question becomes then whether anyone who has been abused can ever be impartial about abuse. To say that they cannot, imho, does victims a great disservice.


If you remove any jurors with history of abuse, do you not remove all the people that have life experience that could be relevant?

With a jury of only lets say strong white males that have never been abused or abuse adjacent, but have had several experience where they felt woman didn't give them enough respect are we that would seem a lot worse to me. Obviously this sounds like an extreme example, but the reality is that such a large part of the population has been the victim in abuse situations that you are going to disqualify into a situation similar to this.

I'm a white male who's never been sexually abused but I can clearly see that's wrong.

This, and being more objective / less emotional (due to not seeing it personally) would probably make me a better juror in such a case than someone who's personally experienced it.

I don't know, I am also a white male and I feel I cannot understand how abuse really works. Of course this might just be me being dense, doesn't say anything about you or anyone else.

With no experience of abuse, you might more likely to be persuaded by arguments like "why didn't she report it earlier" than people with actual experience, who know exactly why.

I think the whole concept of random citizens being pulled in for jury duty is idiotic.

Jurors should be professionals who are trained in being jurors: who, for one thing, thoroughly understand topics in critical reasoning such as fallacies, and cognitive biases.

They should be properly paid, and so are not sitting there on a Saturday morning, socking it to the defendant out of spite for being dragged out of their regular lives without adequate compensation.

That system exists. They are called bench trials. No defendant is forced us submit to a jury. The defendant doesn't want a jury because he thinks that it will "sock it to him" on a Saturday. He wants a jury because he thinks that his fellow citizens will see that the government is improperly accusing him of a crime. The defendant has the right to a trial by people who are not part of the same government that has accused him. The fact that the jurors don't want to be there, that they have lives away from the court, is exactly what the defendant wants.

Among the small share and number of federal defendants who went to trial in fiscal 2018, those who opted for a bench trial – that is, one in which the verdict is handed down by a judge – fared better than those who opted for a jury trial. Around four-in-ten defendants who faced a bench trial (38%) were acquitted, compared with just 14% of those who faced a jury trial.


I have to imagine the defendants who opt for a bench trial have reasons for making that choice that don't necessarily apply to the defendants who choose a jury trial.

So the ones who choose Bench trial are more likely to be innocent?

> exactly what the defendant wants

Only if the defendant is a fool. People being the way people are, are just as likely to resent the defendant as the root cause of why they have to be there at all as the are to resent the system (and side with the defendant out of spite for the system).

The latter will likely only happen in a trial that is between the defendant and the system (i.e. the state).

In, say, a criminal trial in which the victim isn't the state, reluctant, resentful jurors will sock it to the defendant. If there is any uncertainty in the decision, that sentiment may sway it.

Resentment of the jury duty concept will predispose jurors to cave in to their social prejudices. Oh, he must have done it; he's a tattoo-covered, prematurely-aged chain smoker with three gold teeth. Everything about this guy says "criminal". Fuck this asshole for making me be here on a Saturday.

Time is an issue. People who are impatient and just want something to be over will not do a good job of sifting through things to get to the truth, which takes time and patience.

I assume defendants are getting expert advice from attorneys when they make this decision. They should theoretically know way more about this than you or I.

Indeed, the lawyer could, for instance, have a good idea of whether the defendant has a personality and presentation that is likely to be likable to a jury.

A professional Jury opens up avenues for corruption.

Maybe someday we can simulate human brains well enough to run the markovs on governance ideas to see if it's worth it.

> A professional Jury opens up avenues for corruption

Wouldn't the same logic reject professional judges and attorneys?

I don't think so. Checks and balances.

If anything it should be more random and less controlled by lawyers. We're all born into a system of laws we didn't consent to. The legal system and the laws we're forced to obey were set up and are maintained by groups of wealthy people looking to protect their own interests and we had no say in the process. Short of revolution, our only means of making changes to this system have also been put in place by wealthy and powerful people looking to protect their own interests and they gave the entrenched powerful every advantage over you.

We can't choose our laws, but we can choose when and how our peers are punished under them. Participating in a jury is the one place in the system where regular citizens have direct influence in the process. It means we can refuse to convict people under laws which are unjust. It means we can hold members of our communities accountable to laws we consent to live under.

I wouldn't be so eager to give that power up.

Norway just removed jury duty, and if I remembered correctly the last case that had jury duty the actual judges put the jury verdict aside as they all agreed the jury had misunderstood the law.

Of course judges are not always good as well. In the US they are often elected by a blood thirsty population. If they are not elected that has other issues in that the will of the people is not held by the judges.

Why was the jury required to understand the law? That's not a reasonable expectation for random people off the street.

In the US, juries typically decide questions of _fact_ that are not already agreed upon by both parties (i.e. are in dispute). Judges handle questions of law.

If a fact is known, you don't need the contribution of a random person.

If a fact is not known, how can some random person produce it? Out of what.

E.g. in the situation of a crime: only activities like crime scene investigation, and interviewing of witnesses can produce anything that can be called a fact.

Now so from all that have some collection of real facts from the investigation which do not add up to an absolute proof that some particular defendant "dun it".

The next best thing you could do is use some sort of probabilistic reasoning.

Well, what training in probabilistic reasoning do the these random people off the street have?

Probabilities should be quantified in concrete numbers. Instead of some flaky "shadow of a doubt" nonsense, there should be some 99.99% (or whatever standard level) confidence which is somehow calculated.

Yes, the definition of "fact" in "findings of fact" is "there is a factual answer, but we do not know what it is, so we have to guess".

Yes, it might be better if jurors were all acquainted with Bayesian reasoning and it would definitely be better if things like expert testimony and so forth came with confidence estimates.

And yes, "beyond a reasonable doubt" is pretty qualitative.

My point was that if you are expecting your jurors to have a deep understanding of the law, you are definitely doing it wrong.

> If they came back in tears and were removed from the jury, then the system worked.

Not true, since no abusers came back in tears and were removed from the jury.

Or do you consider abusers impartial but abuse victims biased?

I find the very premise of trying to find an "impartial" jury very strange. It makes sense at first pass, but falls apart soon after.

Are these not to be a jury of my "peers". Are not all humans biased in one way or another. If being abused creates bias, why wouldn't NOT being abused also not create bias. We don't have perfect access to information. Sometimes in order to be considered impartial, jurors are basically expected to have no familiarity with basic fundamental news stories. Are people so disconnected from reality really "peers"?

Ultimately, I guess, it's the best we can do.

Impartiality in a jury trial context doesn't refer to the absence of biases (we all have them and truly getting rid of them is an impossible task), but a conscious effect by the jurors to discharge their office without prejudice, i.e., without allowing their biases to manifest as judgments independent of the evidence presented in court.

Put another way: there wouldn't be a point in deliberation if we didn't have biases. Our justice system trusts and (weakly) attempts to enforce the gap between those biases and prejudices that would actually interfere with the court's duty.

And to put it another way, the job of a juror is to convict or exonerate the person on trial, not to convict or exonerate their own abusers by proxy.

Vulcans might not have a problem with this, but humans so obviously do that pretending otherwise is impractical.

I've served on a few juries. From my experience, the average person thinks its much easier to get out of it due to biases than it actually is.

If you're accused but innocent and provide a good case for your innocence, but a juror provides a crying testimony that no one believed them in the jury room, leading to you being sentenced, you'd probably think differently.

Sure, we can't get a perfectly impartial jury. But someone with a past trauma probably won't be able to judge the case for its merits.

Are not all humans biased in one way or another

This appears to be binary thinking. There are nearly infinite degrees of bias. Strong emotions are one way to ensure that someone is heavily biased. That's what the jury system is trying to avoid.

So someone who has never been abused can still be biased in literally any way. But the presumption is that without having such an emotional personal experience with it means they are less likely to be heavily biased. They'll be more likely to be swayed by the testimony in court rather than their experience outside of the court room.

The "peers" part is obsolete. In the old English system, a peasant was tried by other peasants, a noble by other nobles. There's no longer a notion that some people are your peers and others aren't.

Rightly or wrongly its not about disservice to a victim turning up for jury duty its about disservice to the accused. Imagine if you were wrongly prosecuted for for abuse, found guilty and then discovered that three members of the jury had themselves suffered the same abuse you were accused of, you'd immediately look for a re-trial.

Similar experience here. In the last few months I was in the selection pool for a domestic abuse case. The judge asked if anyone had personal experience with domestic abuse and then asked each juror who raised their hand if they wanted to discuss it in private. Some gave a brief version of their story in the courtroom, usually it was their parents while they were growing up. Some preferred privacy, which the judge said they'd come back to later.

The jury selection was completed without ever calling those people in for private explanations. No one who had raised their hand for that question was selected.

As far as impartiality goes, I certainly felt some bias against the accused just based on the nature of the crime and his courtroom demeanor. But I was resolved that I would keep that in mind if I was selected and treat him as fairly as possible despite that. Impartiality is the ideal, and you usually have to make the effort to make it happen. In some circumstances where you have personal experience with similar crimes, that may be too much to ask.

A complementary anecdote, I think worth adding here. I (male, white) served on a jury that comprised six women. The trial was a charge of sexual assault.

Every one of them had a personal tale of assault to tell. It was as tense in the deliberations as you can imagine... like 12 Angry Men [1] but even more harrowing.

I am convinced that the only reason we were able to arrive at a just verdict is because one of these jurors also had the courage to discuss the case of her beloved relative who was falsely accused of rape and was exonerated only many years later, after his life had been destroyed.

We were able to focus on the evidence. But it was not an easy deliberation.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Angry_Men_(1957_film)

When I was in a jury pool for a murder trial, I remember being shocked at how many people raised their hand when the question of whether they had personal experience with murder was asked. I figured barely anyone would raise their hand, but so many people had either had a close family member murdered, or were themselves accused of murder at some point. I really realized how sheltered my life has been.

The US is an extremely violent place. On most violent crime categories, it ranks highest among developed nations.

People lie to get out of jury duty especially trials expected to be long and/or shocking.

I am sure it happens, but I feel like a lot of people say they would lie but when it comes down to it and a very serious judge is asking you from the bench, I bet fewer lie than who say they would.

They also don't mess around with jury duty... one of our jurors went missing on the walk from the jury gathering spot to the courtroom, and the judge was PISSED. Sent the bailiff looking for them to hold them in contempt.

edit: deleted, not worth trying to add any discussion to a topic like this.

Why not? It's not as if the exemption questionnaire on the back of the summons has a checkbox for it.

I've been called for jury duty any number of times. Not once has anyone ever called me, personally, out of one room and into another - always as part of a group of selectees heading to a courtroom or voir dire or whatever. Between that and everything else, it doesn't seem like a leap at all.

> Seems like a hell of a leap. What are the odds someone is being abused concurrent with jury duty vs any other time in their life up until that point?

Not really. In abusive relationships, the abuser often controls every aspect of the abused person's life and there are not opportunities to seek help without the abuser knowing. It's why there are sometimes signs in the bathrooms of women's health clinics informing the patient to initial their sample cup in red marker if they are being abused or have something that they wish to discuss in private. This may well have been one of her only chances to speak with someone without an abuser knowing.

She was the only one called back when the selection was complete. I've been called for jury duty several times and this has never happened while I was there.

We've all heard that cliched phrase about the word "assume."

This happened in a courthouse, not a hospital. I think the context of the discussion behind closed doors could have just as easily been "that is so bad you really need to consider reporting it" or even something more mundane. In any case, seems a little farcical to assume that meant she was actively being abused though it certainly seems like a decent one of many possibilities.

I'm not saying your theory isn't plausible. I'm saying you're getting tunnel vision on the first plausible thing you came across.

I think that you may have misunderstood me. The woman left the room to discuss the matter, returned to the court room in tears, and was called back again after the selection process was completed.

I hear hoofbeats and I don't think that it's zebras.

A notable trait of courthouses is that they are very frequently attended by law enforcement officers to whom such a report could be made.

Especially given how little interest court personnel typically take in individual panelists, why assume everyone with whom you're putting so much effort into arguing is so probably wrong in our analysis of what this interaction likely was?

Abuse is often ongoing for long periods of time, so I don't know that it's necessarily implausible.

Apparently something similar happened when X-Rays started becoming routine. Doctors X-raying kids saw evidence that so many of them had a history of broken bones from abuse. It took a while for the medical community as a whole to acknowledge that widespread child abuse was actually occurring, and longer to wrangle with the idea that it was something that was within their mandate as doctors to do something about.


(Yes it's reddit, but it's Ask Historians. Responses tend to be high-quality because their moderation policy embraces Sturgeon's Law.)

Dealing with abused children is unfortunately common in pediatric medicine and is a huge reason for burnout in the field, because a doctor will know about neglect happening that’s not “bad enough” to call someone about, or if they do, they know nothing will happen because even the services to get kids out of neglectful situations are themselves rife with abuse.

The veterinary field is the same way. I saw a TON of abused pets & animals when I was doing vet tech work. I ultimately decided not to pursue vet school.

did you really just compare the two

No they did not. They made an observation about a related field.

That said, animal abuse is correlated with human abuse

We treat animals worse than humans. Even pet animals are often sent to an overcrowded shelter where animals are killed according to the "first in first dead" principle.

If you want to know what cruelties humans are truly capable off I suggest you look at how we treat animals. As long as we declare a certain subgroup of humans "inhuman" we will treat them the same way.

Don't they have mandatory reporting requirements? I know they exist in my jurisdiction.

Even where it exists, doctors have to weigh whether the abuse they receive is worse than they'll receive after going through CPS and foster system. Anecdotally I've heard from medical providers they prefer not to actually report unless the kid is literally imminently going to die, because the foster system is often even worse for these kids.

I find that very hard to believe, because the law doesn't allow it and the penalties for noncompliance with mandatory reporting are severe. In many states, failure to report is a crime. Mandatory reporting is intended to remove that kind of subjective evaluation from the picture.

OK, fine, don't believe it. I'm not here to convince you how it's nigh impossible to prove what a person is thinking at a particular time. Mandatory reporting is basically a thought crime, if you have the wrong thought (thinking someone is abused), you go to jail for having that thought and not telling someone. Thought crimes are basically impossible to prove in anything other than a kangaroo court.

The real risk is civil liability. Particularly if the victim is later injured

Hmm, fair point.

Good if they actually went where the data led them.

Sigmund Freud famously changed his mind at some point: he had so many young female patients with stories of sexual abuse that he decided it must be a rather common fetish among young girls to make up these stories. He just couldn't believe that a third or so of Vienna's upper crust would rape their daughters.

>> He just couldn't believe that a third or so of Vienna's upper crust would rape their daughters.

Well that's why they were his patients. Duh. OTOH he wrote a lot about his weird ideas around sex, much of it projection - he apparently was the one with erotic feeling toward his mother. The only things Freud wrote that I agree with turns out were first theorized by someone else.

There is a similar social issue waiting to blow up regarding genetic screening. Estimates are that 10-15% of children are from infidelity

I believe that's the rate for people who seek out a paternity test, which is to say are already suspicious. The overall population nonpaternity rate is about 3%[1].

As an aside, obstetricians often notice nonpaternity because of the child having an impossible blood type for the putative father. The ones I've spoken to prefer to stay silent when they notice it.

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19320216/

Thank you for the correction.

>Estimates are that 10-15% of children are from infidelity

Extremely Misleading, from the studies I've seen these high numbers are percentage of people seeking paternity tests, not from the general public as a whole. If you're seeking a paternity test you already are suspecting infidelity.

That's a very astute observation, one that I've personally seen overlooked several times by people using that data point to support their argument. That kind of statistical begging-the-question annoys me to no end.

The number I've heard from people who quote it is all over the map, sometimes it's 10%, or 20%, even as high as 50%, but I've not once seen a citation of any of them. So I'm inclined to treat that statistic as BS unless proven otherwise. But as you say, even a legit number is probably misleading due to the circumstances surrounding the data gathering.

>but I've not once seen a citation of any of them

I have, which is why I brought it up. Any time people throw out such absurdly high numbers and provide "evidence" there always is "...seeking paternity testing..." in the methodology. Always.

It's absurd how people could overlook this, it's like if you counted the times Maury Povich says "you are not the father" and used it to say anything about the general population.

Parental testing should be mandatory at birth perhaps for these issues. Or at least if someone is going to go claim child support.

The father - and should be - is the one who raises the child. It is for this reason that (in the US) "father" of record is always the husband unless it is explicitly questioned and investigated.

Assuming we're talking about a happy family with two eager parents, what is helped by investigating the child's genetic "paternity," when the father is right there holding the baby?

Because he may be victim of a fraud? ie, the baby is someone elses?

Because the actual biological father may want a role in his childs life?

Because the state has a bit of interest in accuracy in its medical / birth certificate and other records?

Because many births are to single mothers and the absent father may have certain financial and other responsibilities for the child?

> The father [is] - and should be - the one who raises the child.

We’re implicitly dealing with two senses of the word “father” in this context which makes most of your sentences seem both commonsensical and ambigious.

> Assuming we're talking about a happy family with two eager parents, what is helped by investigating the child's genetic "paternity," when the father is right there holding the baby?

Because the real father did not get to enjoy his rights as a parent? Because the child did not get to enjoy their rights with their biological parent?

Seriously, paternity fraud has three victims: The unknowing father, the biological father and the child.

Asking to keep the crime secret because the perpetrator might get uncomfortable questions is not reasonable when their are multiple victims plus the potential for medical mishaps for one of the victims.

On paternity attestation forms in the usa there is a clause saying the marriage/legal father is not the father of record if the mother was in another relationship 9-10 months ago.

In Washington, DC years ago, there was a bill before the DC Council that basically said that any man having sex with a woman who ended up with a child was presumed to be the biological father until paternity was ruled out. So if a woman had sex with several men, all would have presumed paternity. I don't recall whether this applied only to public benefits and paternity.

If it was going to be mandatory it would be much better to do it before birth using amniotic fluid. Waiting for the child to be born and then suddenly telling one parent that it's not their biological child isn't a great idea.

It can be done with a noninvasive blood test of the mother. I am a firm proponent of mandatory testing so fathers aren’t financially responsible for children that aren’t theirs (without their knowledge and consent). Historically, if a father later determines they're not the biological parent, family court will still stick them with child support until the child is 18 (or even older, sometimes requiring college support).


What will that accomplish? If a putative father is already suspicious (and doesn’t want to be a father), sure, then having a NIPT would make sense. But there is already an avenue for that. You would want to make that mandatory for all pregnancies? Not everyone wants to know that information and having a mandatory test could force people (fathers) into situations they don’t want to be in.

Kids are more than a financial responsibility.

If it's not your kid biologically, and you're not a willing participant, it's not your responsibility. Pursue the biological parent for support. To do otherwise is equivalent to fraud.

We don't force foster kids on people without their informed consent. This is no different.

Edit: We agree to disagree. I fall firmly in the mandatory testing camp for accuracy of paternity for all involved parties. Trust but verify.

If you’re not a willing participant, then you can still have the test. If you’re the type where if the kid isn’t your biological kid, then you wouldn’t want to be a father to them — then get a test.

The question is — should it be mandatory for all pregnancies? Willing participant or otherwise. I’m not saying no one should have paternity testing. It should certainly be available. I just don’t think you should mandate it.

Its also important to remove any doubt - to strengthen the bond in the cases where its true

Given that before birth, it's the woman's body, and after birth it's the child's body being tested, and there is no clear medical case for paternity testing being a life-saving operation somehow...


...a mandatory test puts serious amounts of potential harm in the hands of a field that historically (and as demonstrated by some of the regrettable opinions expressed in this conversation thread), completely ignores the rights and consent of a woman and child while discussing how men might feel or believe about said topics.

Relationships are complex things, and blanket legislation will never respect the full consent of the individuals involved. Give the mother freedom to request a pre-birth paternity test, and the child to request the results once they hit their teens, with confidential results.

Anything past that is a relationship issue (does your spouse / child feel safe telling you the truth?), and any form of mandatory testing pre-birth would very much violate the bodily consent of the mother. Post-birth, if it's not a medically necessary operation, which paternity is not, it waits for when the kid is old enough to understand consent.

Consent is not a debate. Consent is about functional boundary. In this case, it is simple:

Not your body? Not your choice.

Enable (their) choice instead of trying to control women and children's bodies, please.

You seem to have missed the point, you mention that the mother and the child should have freedom to request a paternity test .. but in the vast majority of cases the mother knows, it's the father that does not know. In all cases the child is the mothers child, where the father can be tricked/defrauded into the most expensive cost they will ever bear for the rest of their life, on the basis of a lie.

This is very obvious, completely unaddressed in your comment, and the rest of your argument is probably in bad faith.

> to strengthen the bond in the cases where its true

You mean when the parental relationship is compatible with the wishes of the potential step father. Knowing that the child isn't yours can be useful in either direction. Either you know it from the start and accept it from the start, or you refuse it from the start. This idea that we shouldn't bear bad news and hide them, hoping to profit off the confusion, is a horrible way to run a society. Learn to deal with the bad news. (ignoring them is how situations escalate and get way worse than they should be)

There is a common ethical perspective when dealing with laws like this, such as child support. What is best for the child? Should the child have a right to know who their biological parents are, or should the preferences of the parents decide that.

If we determine that children are better of having such rights then the wishes of the parents tend to be disregarded, with some exceptions to religion which still supersede such ethical considerations.

Abortion is always a possibility for me and during the age when people talk about consent is the question really honest? It absolutely should be mandatory and men should have a sat in abortion itself as well, the bare minimum society can do when there's no consent is to erase the financial burden.

Wow, NIPP testing is very cool - didn't know about that.

Well, it's always the potential father that gets the news not one of the parents. Maybe it's not ideal to tell them once the child is born but it's still better than not telling them at all.

That's an interesting idea, but a fair number of families don't want to do amniotic fluid testing. Paternity and maternity issues are pretty low incidence issues, but is VERY rough if it pops up with a 4 year old in the mix.

If you've got wrong dad in the picture, at birth is a good time to chase down the right father! Get him paying child support if needed. Non-bio dad could still decide to stay around if desired - but transparency / honesty on the table.

Amniocentesis carries a small, but real, risk of miscarriage

I'm surprised genetic testing isn't always performed at birth

Similar story here except with journalism: I did a course in media law where it was explained that victims of sex crimes always get lifelong anonymity. Journalists must avoid "jigsaw identification", eg giving away details that might identify the victim.

This means in cases of incest it is impossible to report the incest element because it is too easy to identify the victim if you say "x raped his daughter". So it appears in the press as though attacks are random, when actually a shocking number (10% seems conservative) are in the family.

As a sibling comment says, it is chilling.

10% would be of all teen births not all rapes. I suspect that 10% pregnancy number would represent a much higher percentage of teen rapes.

> So roughly 5% (<5 of 84) of the control group were discovered to have themselves been abused and needed to be dropped from the study.

I hope this is accidental bias, or a statistical anomaly. It could be for example that this is overrepresented from the pooled community. I think it would also be important to somehow scale/categorize the level of abuse (physical vs non-physical, penetrative vs non-penetrative, etc).

If it really is 5% (1 in 20 girls) then this would outrank something like COVID in terms of importance.

> The comparison sample (n = 82) was recruited via advertisements in community newspapers and posters in welfare, daycare, and community facilities in the same neighborhoods in which the abused participants lived. Comparison families contacted study personnel and were screened for eligibility, which included having no prior contact with protective service agencies and being demographically similar to a same-aged abused participant. At the time of study entry, comparison families were not informed that the study involved sexually abused females; rather, they were told that the study was of “female growth and development.”

I wonder whether this still ended up being a self-selecting group. I can imagine a scenario where a young girl has an awful experience growing up, wants to see change in the upbringing of females and becomes somewhat engaged in related activities.

> He actually said: You better build some more prisons before you start testing babies for this.

I don't think a lack of facilities to deal with a problem is a good reason for not addressing it. At the very least we need to understand the scale of the problem, even if the problem remains unaddressed for the time being.

We don't have hard numbers on kids, but we have some very solid numbers from young adults.

From 2020 Statistics Canada study of university students:


>> One in ten (11%) women students experienced a sexual assault in a postsecondary setting during the previous year. About one in five (19%) women who were sexually assaulted said that the assault took the form of a sexual activity to which they did not consent after they had agreed to another form of sexual activity—for example, agreeing to have protected sex and then learning it had been unprotected sex.

>> Less than one in ten women (8%) and men (6%) who experienced sexual assault, and less than one in ten women (9%) and men (4%) who had experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours spoke about what happened

Given that last stat, we should take whatever number we have for reported assaults' and multiply it by at least ten to cover all the unreported events.

It's important to realize the 11% statistic is a statistic that includes non-consensual ass-grabbing in the same bucket with forcible rape, which isn't informative for most purposes and I can only imagine wasn't done in good faith.

Here is from that report, things that constitute "sexual assault":

    "Sexual attack: Forcing or attempted forcing into any unwanted sexual activity, by threatening, holding down, or hurting in some way;
    Unwanted sexual touching: Touching against a person’s will in any sexual way, including unwanted touching or grabbing, kissing, or fondling;
    Sexual activity where unable to consent: Subjecting to a sexual activity to which a person was not able to consent, including being intoxicated, drugged, manipulated, or forced in ways other than physically;
    Sexual activity to which a person did not consent, after they consented to another form of sexual activity (for example, agreeing to protected sex and then learning it had been unprotected sex)."
Those things constitute 11% sexual assault number you cite. It's important to realize that "sexual assault" to most people means rape and things that are pretty close to rape, so that's how they'll interpret the 11% number, but the criteria include "Touching against a person’s will in any sexual way, including unwanted touching or grabbing, kissing, or fondling;" and I don't see a breakdown by type. I would imagine that the vast majority of positive reports were in the non-consensual touching bucket. So we're looking at a statistic that includes non-consensual ass-grabbing in the same bucket with forcible rape. I guess I've been sexually assaulted numerous times.

Don't take this to trivialize bad experiences people have had, take it as an attack on shoddy methods that are clearly designed to stoke fires of indignation rather than shed light on a prickly topic.

>Given that last stat... I don't think you're interpreting this correctly.

I agree, bucketing all of those experiences together seems extremely misleading.

>> One in ten (11%) women students experienced a sexual assault in a postsecondary setting during the previous year. About one in five (19%) women who were sexually assaulted said that the assault took the form of a sexual activity to which they did not consent after they had agreed to another form of sexual activity—for example, agreeing to have protected sex and then learning it had been unprotected sex.

Is there a baseline for what constitutes sexual assault? Or is it entirely subjective?

Generally sexual encounters in which there is not informed consent between participants is considered assault. Someone who consents to sex with contraception when the sex doesn’t have contraception isn’t an informed consenting party.

As this is from Statistics Canada, they would be using the government definitions, which include rape on the sexual assault spectrum.


Obviously rape would be at one end of the spectrum but what's the distribution of incidents over the entire spectrum?

They say in that report you linked in the OP that they include "behaviours such as unwelcome sexual comments, actions or advances" which are entirely subjective.

> If it really is 5% (1 in 20 girls) then this would outrank something like COVID in terms of importance.

If you want more information on this, Besser van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score, considered to be one of the definitive books on the study of psychological trauma, discusses this in Chapter 10, "Developmental Trauma: The Hidden Epidemic".

While I don't have the book in front of me to quote explicit statistics, the chapter references a number of research studies backing up the conclusion of the doctor in sandworm101's comment.

Wanted to say the same thing.

100% of women who have taken the Parisian subway have been sexually harassed at least once a year. 72% while walking in Lausanne. Sexual harassment is rampant but we teach kids to not snitch or bring problems to their parents/teachers. Same in ocmpanies, so as far as I am concerned, 5% seems to be fairly low.

Very seriously: no, that’s not an aberration. Sexual abuse is at a massive scale and the abuse is highly normalized. America still has child brides legalized such that there are services to look up states to travel to in order to perform a child marriage by age, documentation requirements, fees, etc.

What exactly are you talking about? This sounds an awful lot like what some Roma people practice here in the bad parts of Europe

I mean quite seriously that putting children in romantic, intimate relationships is legal in America. Only 6 states have banned marrying children. I’m emphasizing this because I want to point out the degree in which sexual violence is normalized, to the point where 5 percent of women in a study who believed they weren’t sexually abused might realize they have been and be dropped out of the study is totally within the bounds of reality.

Excuse me for asking but you keep saying children without mentioning particular age. In the case of Roma bride markets, I've been quoted age 12 and beyond. Quite young at the lower end, no doubt, but at the risk of drawing people's wrath, 16 and above, while bad, isn't that horrible... until we get back to our senses and realize the whole thing sucks because they are forced or at least strongly encouraged to do it.

There are states where there is no minimum limit for child marriage.

Doesn't that collide with age of consent? I am having a hard time believing this

> Doesn't that collide with age of consent?

Typically (though you can probably find exceptions to either or both), modern low or no limits for child marriage systems feature:

1. Parental consent laws for marriage below a certain age, and

2. Marital exceptions to age of consent laws for sex.

Your intuition is correct, 5% isn't correct. From another comment I made in this thread:

"In a few cases (N < 5) families were dropped from the comparison group because some history of sexual abuse was ascertained."

I think you are misinterpreting. First, they say:

"...information was obtained about any possible unwanted sexual experiences of the comparison females or other family members"

So interpreting it as 5 of 84 women is incorrect. It's min 5 people of 84 families. Given a mean family size of perhaps 3.5 (if by "family" they mean "nuclear family", though I bet they include anyone you know about really--Uncle Bob would count, and one report per family with reports) it's more like 5 out of 294 people, or 1.7%. And I don't think they share their exclusion criteria, which isn't a good sign. And there's a significant selection bias given how they recruited (in a newspaper, for people who have the free time and/or low wealth enough to want to do a study, and in particular on female growth and development).

> In his experience, amongst pregnant teenagers (17 and younger) about 10% were pregnant by their own fathers/brothers.

I refuse to believe that. I mean, yeah, the man had direct contact with such cases and probably had been in the field for tens of years while I'm just a computer programmer but I still refuse to believe it.

That's because you've been sheltered from most of it; and most of the time it's "kept within the family," never made public, and simply swept under the rug -- so as to not "break apart the family" (at the cost of one victim).

People will allow all sorts of horrendous things to happen, if it serves their interests.

Father rapes his daughter? The mother refuses to believe it: thinks her daughter is only doing it for attention; doesn't want her "perfect" family image to get shattered (plus, daddy dearest pays the bills and funds her lifestyle). Same goes for extended family.

"It couldn't happen in our family." "You know how teenage girls are." "He would never do something like that. I've known him for decades."

Cognitively checking-out, because it's not their "problem." And other forms of dissonance.

Those are only the stats for pregnancy, though. I'm sure the incidence of sexual abuse without pregnancy is higher.

I’m 64 years old, so I’ve been around a while. Essentially every woman I have ever been close enough with to discuss these issues has reported either being sexually abused as a child or raped as an adult. As a young man I never realized how widespread this is.

I get what you're getting at, that we should trust the experts who have professional experience with a problem, but on the other hand, he didn't say how he arrived at that 10% number, and we don't know if his opinion is an outlier among medical doctors. And we do know, because we're witnessing it, that his statement is being amplified by non-medical professionals for the precise reason that it would be urgent and shocking if true. A lot of questionable information about Covid was amplified this way, because "a doctor" said it.

Before we take the information at face value, we would expect some kind of support for his statement from other professionals. There are scientists who study the factors relating teenage pregnancy, as well as advocates for sexual abuse victims who uncover and publicize facts like these. If the information is something that has never been formally studied but is something that doctors "just know," there are tens of thousands (at least) of medical professionals who have regular contact with different populations of pregnant teenagers in the United States alone. If there's a widespread suspicion that the number might be 10% or more, that would mean a lot more than one doctor making an off-the-cuff remark in the audience of a law lecture.

> he didn't say how he arrived at that 10% number

With the recent popularity of genetic testing services for health and ancestry tracing, I would think this would be easy to tease out of the data. Of course not many people will expect to see as part of the report that their father is also their grandfather or uncle; I wonder how these services handle that?

I know it is probably shocking and supremely disgusting to realize but it is important to validate when people are victims of abuse, because they’re already traumatized. It’s even worse when people try to pretend it doesn’t happen or refuse to believe it happens to the extent it does because it’s like being victimized a second time: not only is your body taken from you but your experiences are denied from you too.

Well, it is his expertise. Have you read “the body keeps the score”? Really enlightening.

"In a few cases (N < 5) families were dropped from the comparison group because some history of sexual abuse was ascertained."

I think you are misinterpreting. First, they say:

"...information was obtained about any possible unwanted sexual experiences of the comparison females or other family members"

So interpreting it as 5 of 84 women is incorrect. It's min 5 people of 84 families. Given a mean family size of perhaps 3.5 (if by "family" they mean "nuclear family", though I bet they include anyone you know about really--Uncle Bob would count, and one report per family with reports) it's more like 5 out of 294 people, or 1.7%. And I don't think they share their exclusion criteria, which isn't a good sign. And there's a significant selection bias given how they recruited (in a newspaper, for people who have the free time and/or low wealth enough to want to do a study, and in particular on female growth and development).

I think your comment is getting attention because you're offering an idea that people like, and some anecdata to back it up. It's a classic problem of the modern world, things that people want to believe get a lot of attention, out of proportion to their actual frequency. I think you, and others here, want to believe the situation is worse than it is, or worse than the data here warrant believing, because you're going to get rewarded for acting as if the appealing idea is the case. I don't mean you are sitting there, consciously thinking that, but the rewards (here some updoots on HN) shape your behavior behind the scenes anyway. This is how we get news that paints a grotesquely distorted view of the world: people want to hear about how a crazed soccer mom murdered all her kids in the bathtub, and critically it is profitable. They don't want to hear that everything was fine in Peoria, IL last night.

I would bet a lot of money that the picture you paint with the study's numbers is substantially false. For one, your interpretation of the numbers they give is wrong. Second, the study doesn't appear well done. It's a little old, but it also has a lot of indicators that it isn't of high quality (e.g., lots of "p<0.05", but no "p<0.001"--see p curves). I haven't read it in detail and won't because my spidey senses say it's not worth it based on what I've seen skimming.

> I haven't read it in detail and won't because my spidey senses say it's not worth it based on what I've seen skimming.

Wow thanks for this extremely well researched and authoritative opinion

I don't make any claims on the basis of authority, the math in the comment speaks for itself.

Figure 2b also notes that of the original 82 comparison group individuals 13 were dropped due to revelation of abuse.

Does ancestry.com have this info?

Why should locking up child abusers be controversial?

That was my thought at first as well, but thinking about it more, if abusers find out that genetic testing is routinely happening they will just not allow the victim to receive medical treatment at all, which would be worse for the victim than the status quo. Worst case scenario they would get rid of the evidence completely, either by forced back-alley abortion or murder.

This seems like a second order effect that is surely much lower than fixing the first order effect of protecting underage pregnant women and arresting their abusers. Surely some abusers would prevent women from getting help, but we shouldn't deny help to those that we can, that just seems utterly crazy to me.

"First, do no harm".

Because a doctor's duty is to their patient, not the justice system. Breaking up the family might not be the best thing for the pregnant girl or newborn. I'm not saying they actively cover up abuse, but doctors know not to ask questions they don't want answered. Blanket genetic testing determinative to determine parentage is very dangerous knowledge.

I'm dubious that this lacks societal benefit overall. Even if we buy that breaking up the sexually abusive family is't the best thing (already dubious), there's strong second order effects of this disincentiving abuse.

Automatic genetic testing also has other advantages of preventing future paternity disputes.

Honestly, this would be an interesting thing for a single state to run an experiment with and see how behaviors change.

While society would no doubt benefit from outing abusers, teen births as a whole are a tiny portion of births. 10% of a small number is a small number.

Given women cheat at the same rates as men, blanket genetic testing would break up a significant amount of families. That's why some countries (France for example) ban paternity tests.

Aren't doctors mandatory reporters in the United States?

Mandatory reporters, not mandatory investigators. If they have no knowledge of the abuse they have nothing to report. If the girl says that her boyfriend is the father, the doctor isn't going to run extra tests just to prove her wrong. There is no medical advantage to the patient in such testing. Doctors are not cops.

Their primary directive legal or not is to uphold the oath they took to do no harm. If reporting would cause them to violate this ancient creed then it is for they to decide what they will do.

Sure, if they want to risk being stripped of their license, they can flout the law.

That law (in this case) is so difficult to enforce that it matters very little.

Their patients would include the mother, wouldn't it?

Ending abuse for the pregnant girl is certainly their prorogative

Locking up child abusers isn't controversial. Finding out the vast majority of them get away with it scot free seems like it would be controversial as hell.

The only controversial thing I can think of here is when it comes to the definition of abuse. People are on the sex offender registry for public urination, although I suspect that this happens more often with repeat offenders.

That whole comment was chilling AF

Chilling but also a little reassuring. If you are a victim, knowing that a large percentage of the population has also been abused can help recovery. It says that it is very possible to be a victim and go on to a normal life.

Want something very chilling? First year criminal law lecture on rape. Professor says "We have about a hundred people in this room. None of you future lawyers have criminal records. Statistically speaking, about fifteen of the fifty or so women here are victims. And probably fifteen of the men are rapists." Also see the opening sequence of the movie Copycat (1995) where Sigourney Weaver's character does a similar trick regarding serial killers.

While that story might be intimidating I can't help but think it's statistical nonsense and discredits the professors integrity.

Starting from the assumption that general population numbers apply to a group of law students (I assume that he doesn't have statistics about rape among law students) on to the assumption that there is a 1 to 1 relationship between rape victims and rapists. I would assume there to be more victims than offenders.

Just seems a rather weird move to tell your first year students a significant number of their fellows and friends are either victims or rapists just to make a point about unsolved rape.

It sounds like the professor made it clear she was speaking in terms of population averages. So unless you can find empirical evidence that those statistics don't apply to that slice of the population, then there's absolutely no problem with what she said. She didn't say "15 of the men in this class are rapists."

Law students aren't learning to be statisticians, epidemiologists, or policy wonks. Emotionally moving people to act upon a collection of documented facts— be it in trial or a contract negotiation— requires persuasive speaking and strategy. She made the breadth and consequences of rape palpable to her students not only by giving it a face, but giving it their faces. Since this poster, years later, immediately recalled that story when prompted, I reckon it was thoroughly compelling.

The odds that a group of 100 law students would perfectly represent the overall population are astronomical.

You cannot extend population-level averages to a group of people without first proving that group is representative of the population.

Perhaps everyone in the room knew that. Perhaps it was even said. Were you there?

You essentially restated the criticism I responded to.

>> I would assume there to be more victims than offenders.

Why? Women who have been abused are often abused by more than one person.

>>just to make a point about unsolved rape.

She was making multiple points, several of which had nothing to do with rape. It was about criminality. Why we punish crimes the way we do. The strain on police/judicial resources. Diversionary programs. The prevalence of plea bargaining. and and and. A first year law lecture is a very nuanced thing.

What's her point other than that our system is ineffective and incredibly wasteful?

There is some evidence that the proportion for the men is a bit different. According to one study, it was about 6% of men. About 2/3rds of those men committed multiple rapes, ~6 each. Details here: https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-pr...

Intuitively, that makes sense. If people figure out how to get away with something, some of them are going to keep doing it. E.g., if I think about the people I knew in high school, most didn't shoplift, but there were a couple who did it a whole bunch.

Alcohol. We can get into the definitions of consent, but suffice to say that there are a large number of rapes committed by drunk highschool kids. Many wake up, regret everything about what happened, and never allow themselves to get into such a situation again.

The out-of-the-blue apologia for rape is always startling to me.

Interesting how she assumed none of the men would be raped. Newer CDC stats (since ~2010 when they started asking men if they've ever been "made to penetrate" by a woman) show that female-on-male rape happens a lot more often than people think.


I had that discussion with her. She was actually an open lesbian, part of the early gay marriage push in new england. At the time (early 2000s) there were some states with old laws that also made female-on-female rape physically impossible. Canada recently abolished "rape" as a distinct crime, instead placing it on the far end of a sexual assault spectrum. I think this is probably the best way forwards.

That's part of the solution, but we also need to challenge societal gender biases that assume men can't be victims. If you look at the CDC stats something like 1/3rd of people victimized in any year are men, but if you look at crimes reported to police it drops to something like 1% of victims being men. It implies men are much less likely to report being raped to the police.

or male-on-male rape

That too, but the CDC stats suggest that female-on-male is more prevalent than male-on-male, although they call female-on-male "made to penetrate" and only call male-on-male "rape" which confuses people into thinking the opposite.

Are people (and law professors in particular) stupid enough to apply this "1-on-1" logic to other crimes as well (e.g. "n people victims of burglary" => "n thiefs") or only to rape?

Was the aim of the lecturer to teach law or to incite a random lynching? Or to make the co-students distrust each other for no more reason than they would want to distrust any other random person?

Go to a sufficiently large rock concert and the lead singer would be able to say “statistically at least one of you are a murderer!” Which might be “statistically correct” but all that would accomplish is for everyone to question his or her sanity.

I never use the word victim for me anyway. I pretty much overachieved in most ways so I could get the fuck out of my zip code and never seen those people again

> Chilling but also a little reassuring. If you are a victim, knowing that a large percentage of the population has also been abused can help recovery.

"Misery loves company" is indeed a common attitude, but I'm not sure it's especially healthy.

It's not about loving company.

I'm traumatized from childhood abuse (but not sexual abuse), and knowing how many people are neglected/abused by their caregivers lets me know that:

a.) There is nothing about me that caused the situation. Since I'm a very strange human, that's good to know: They weren't abusing me because I was too hard to parent or because I didn't act like a normal child.

b.) "This too shall pass." Trauma has impacts on my life, but, with the example of others, I can move on and make decisions that help address the damage.

I think "misery loves company" is distinct. One of the many harms of sexual abuse is shame. Not coincidentally, shame is a tool of abusers and authoritarian power structures that protect abusers. For victims of abuse, knowing that they're not alone is a path out of shame and self-blame. It can help them put blame in the correct spot: not on what they wore or how they acted, but on the abusers and the abusers' support systems.

"Misery loves company" is the antithesis of The Golden Rule, a formulation of which is "do not believe that it is so that you will find happiness in the misery of others," (I believe Seneca may have said this, but can't find the citation). I believe it is not the sadist notion, "misery loves company," that eases victims' pain, but instead "being in good company." I think "misery loves company" is a cynical twist of "being in good company," which is similar to left-handers learning of famous left-handers, or a depressive learning that Lincoln suffered from depression, reducing or eliminating feeling alone or isolated and disconneted.

The Dutch equivalent of "misery loves company" is "gedeelde smart is halve smart", which roughly translates to "a burden shared is a burden halved". I've never before interpreted that phrase in any other way than an acknowledgement that personal problems are easier to bear if you have someone to confide in. I certainly wouldn't interpret it as a cynical comment on codependency.

But maybe I've always misinterpreted the English phrase. Is there a different English saying that's closer to the Dutch meaning?

Maybe "many hands make light labor?" Though that one seems more specific/literal than the Dutch version.

The phrase "misery loves company" makes me think of this Calvin and Hobbes strip, so I guess it has cynical connotations for me:


Though I wouldn't apply this phrase to the situation of victims feeling comforted by the knowledge that they're not the only ones.

That is not at all the point.

It helps to know that you are not the only one who has suffered injustice.

Uhh lawyers and law students can have criminal records. Commonly.

By criminal record she clearly mean the sort of things that would prevent you from being accepted to the bar/law school. Someone with a rape conviction as an adult wouldn't be sitting in a first year law lecture. Is is normal for law schools not to accept candidates that will not be able to become lawyers.

Certain criminal convictions (like rape) prevent you from being accepted by the bar. Most people don't go to law school when they know they are ineligible to actually practice law (even if a law school actually accepted a convicted rapist).

The school they were teaching at probably disqualified anyone with any criminal record from admission.

10%? It's sickening if it's true. If building more prisons is what is needed to deal with this actual pandemic, then I guess we should start building prisons.

Can testify it does a number on male development too

same. My abuse was very early, which it tends to be for men. My abusers weren't removed from my life until I was six, and even then were brought back over and over again. I am 40. I became a successful software developer. Then I finally couldn't ignore what happened to me. It was a brutal 3 years of therapy and trying to find my way out of the emotional pain I felt.

I am just now getting my career on track, but I am essentially starting from square one again. As a programmer your primary tool is your brain, and when it simply isn't working...

What, to me, is positive, is that we are talking about it. Just being aware of this pain and not replicating it is what is needed to shift the world.

Thank you very much for sharing this. Me too. Like yours, mine occurred early. Like you, I was exposed to my abuser many times afterward.

As a boy, I carried my shame in silence, and learned early to dislike and avoid extended family gatherings, masking my avoidance in a blanket of "family sucks/is boring" cynicism.

As an early teen entering puberty, I grew increasingly disturbed about had happened. I tried to force the feelings away, almost ritually, but grew increasingly mired in confusion about what was wrong with me. Why did I (despite the fact that I was but 5-6 years old at the time) not take action? Did this mean I enjoyed being abused? Did this mean it wasn't abuse? Did the fact that I didn't stop the abuser mean I was not heterosexual? I began bombarding myself with pornography, almost as a salve against the uncertainty and doubt about who I was.

It wasn't until nearly 40 - and in the context of therapy to try to prevent the most important relationships of my life from falling further apart - that I had even considered the fact that I'd survived abuse. I felt ashamed to even think about accepting that statement, as I knew many others had suffered so much more serious forms of long-term abuse.

Only now have I come to marginally accept that decades of suffering internalized shame, fear, pain and mistrust deserve to be called survival.

I now have children who I love with all my heart. I cannot fathom inflicting such suffering upon them - or anyone else, for that matter. I will never be able to entrust them to the care of close family or friends. It's a constant internal struggle when they ask about sleepovers with friends. Such trivial things as "going over to someone's house" trigger immense uncertainty and fear, which I do my best to not burden my children with. I don't know if I will ever truly be able to shed the thick cloak of cynicism - largely a defense mechanism - that has and continues to impede my ability to relate meaningfully to the world and the people around me.

I hope I can - and I hope that awareness grows, so that other people aren't exposed to a similar experience.

> I now have children who I love with all my heart. I cannot fathom inflicting such suffering upon them - or anyone else, for that matter. I will never be able to entrust them to the care of close family or friends. It's a constant internal struggle when they ask about sleepovers with friends. Such trivial things as "going over to someone's house" trigger immense uncertainty and fear, which I do my best to not burden my children with. I don't know if I will ever truly be able to shed the thick cloak of cynicism - largely a defense mechanism - that has and continues to impede my ability to relate meaningfully to the world and the people around me.

My heart aches because you sound so much like my mother.

What I will say is that as her child, one thing I appreciated so much is that I never had to worry if my parents would believe me if something happened. Your kids will have you always in their corner and that makes such, such, such a difference. So much of my mother's turmoil is related to her mother not believing her + the victim-blaming. You're helping and shielding your kids just by being who you are, even if you don't want to worry them.

Thank you for saying this. You're very much right; part of my fear was that - like other members of my family - I wouldn't be believed (or worse, blamed as an "instigator"). Things my children will never have to experience, to be sure.

Kidpower is my favorite resource for how to talk about personal safety with kids and teach them skills to help them stay safe with people. The Safety Comics are a good place to start:


And I also learned a lot and had some big mindset changes from reading the giant Kidpower Book for Caring Adults, which really goes in depth and is good at breaking things down into simple practices.


I really like the mindset of teaching kids how to be safe in a positive way (i.e. without scaring them about potential dangers) and the serious-business approach to our responsibilities as adults.

Thanks for sharing these resources!

20 years of therapy never helped me unfortunately

Have you tried EMDR?

It's awful -- like getting slapped in the face repeatedly -- but it works.

Huh. Looking into it now. Thanks for suggestion. Would be nice to find some peace

I'd be interested to see this study repeated with male victims. I think each sex has its own issues when sexually victimized:

- Females, of course, can get pregnant, and our assaults are more likely to be physically painful.

- Males have zero social support and are far more stigmatized for being victimized, and they also have less of a support network/are more isolated than females on average. They also have fewer resources available since sexual assault is seen as only happening to females. Fewer shelters, hotlines, etc.

That's a very unfortunate phrasing. You may want to explicitly add "this study" in your first sentence.

Oh dear God, thank you.

> [...] our assaults are more likely to be physically painful.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but I wonder why you think this is the case?

It's a good question!

I think this because:

Rape (and sexual assault in general) are (usually) the result of a combination of power dynamics + sex. The other main assumption I'm making is that women are mostly sexually assaulted by men, and that men are sexually assaulted by both women and men in fairly equal numbers. (I think that women are as likely to be effed up in the head as men, but a substantial amount of male victims are victimized in male-only or default situations like the military or prison, and if all the people around you are men, all the assholes and rapists are too.)

So, examining each component separately:

Sex is going to be based on what sex acts are most common, and the most common male-female configurations focused on male pleasure have pain as a possibility for the female. Forcible vaginal penetration hurts more physically than being forced to penetrate, and being forced to gag on a penis is, in my opinion, more likely to cause pain than forced cunnilingus. So the acts themselves are more likely to cause physical pain.

With regard to power dynamics, I think most females are assaulted by men and those men are going to use their physical superiority more often (because it's the power tool they use). For male victims, I would guess whether or not their experience was physically painful would depend a lot on both the sex of their assaulter and how old they were at the time. I would expect boys that are victimized as children would be more likely to report physical pain since, like with adult women victims, there is often a physical strength differential between victim and assaulter. (Or, for example, I was physically abused by a woman as a child, and she was stronger than me.) I would also expect more physical pain from men who are sexually assaulted by other men in a social space where physical prowess is important.

The flip side of this is that I think men who are sexually assaulted by women are more likely to experience social and emotional pain/turmoil. Much like men are taught to wield their muscles as weapons, women are taught to wield our social abilities, and a woman who wants to humiliate a man or assert power over him is more likely to gaslight him, convince him to gaslight himself, etc. than beat the crap out of him. You also see this when some asshole women are dismissive of men getting erections during an assault. "He's hard, he wanted it."

I'd also hate to compare the experiences and I wouldn't say one is worse than the other. I think we should understand the variables that might cause differing results so that we can support all the victims. A focus on self-defense and overcoming feeling weak isn't going to help a male victim who could have physically stopped his attacker but didn't for social reasons: They need validation of their experiences and decisions. You know?

Interestingly, there's another child comment, flagged and dead [edit: it has been resurrected], that says simply, "Sh...no-one cares about men." It's not a great comment, as it lacks substance, but it reflects something real and important.

Sexual abuse is to women as police violence is to black people. These classes of people are affected more (far more - perhaps 2x?) than others, but that doesn't mean others aren't affected. A broader class of victim lets you draw lines more clearly: BLM isn't about police vs black people, it's really about police vs not-police. Sexual violence isn't about men vs women, its also about abuse of power, over children. Children includes boys and girls of all colors, of all religions, of all sexual orientations.

Abuse of power knows no gender or race. Mothers abuse their sons. Teachers abuse their students. The more we allow the culture to ignore some abuse to make other abuse more narratively appealing, the more we abandon those victims that don't fit the protected class, and the worse we do at actually identifying the problem itself. This is a great moral and practical failing, an example of the potency of left-wing "other"ing.

The culture does not want to hear from victimized men, especially straight white men. It is okay to withhold empathy, because SWMs are "powerful", they always have been and they always will be, and are to blame for most, if not all, of the worlds problems, especially abuse of power in all its forms, they say.

We've been encouraged for years to express vulnerability, expressing more of a softer, feminine side. Now, we are punished for it, and then we get some unwanted appellation like "men's rights advocates", which is a liberal code for right-wing anti-feminist reactionaries working nefariously to maintain the status quo.

The dead comment is right: no-one cares about men. I will go further and say that its a deeply evil thing, and I fear for my 2-year-old son. This is a real fear, not a construction, and it should be okay to share the concern in a public forum without being attacked for saying something I'm not. But I know it will happen, anyway, because you cannot fight the tide.

The initial comment here adds to the discussion of the impact on female development, without making a grandiose claim that no one cares.

Both your comment and the flagged comment make that claim.

It seems much more so the case that people can care about how bad actions affect both female and male victims than the hypothesis you propose.

And, in fact, straight white men can be in a position of power, and have advantages, and also be able to share stories where they are victims, and find support. These things do not have to be black and white and contradictory.

Who the victim is and how they are affected does not speak about who the transgressor is, nor does it do so in inflexible, absolute terms. So the effects of being a victim can be explored without going into a "victim mentality" as someone who does not happen to be the primary focus of this article.

>people can care about how bad actions affect both female and male victims than the hypothesis you propose.

They can, but that doesn't mean they do. It is dangerous to be caught caring about men or boys. Consider this recent SNL skit "man park": https://youtu.be/9XOt2Vh0T8w?t=131. I've linked to the part where a woman is saying something sympathetic to men, and then panics that she'll be caught on camera saying it. This is after showing men in a dog park. E.g. equating them to dogs.

Note that my comment was NOT triggered by the OP's study, but rather that a comment was flagged and killed stating something that I think is obviously true, but quite inconvenient for some people to read.

> It is dangerous to be caught caring about men or boys.

Not at all in my experience. Comedy skits aren't evidence, or we could have some very interesting discussions!

> The dead comment is right: no-one cares about men. I will go further and say that its a deeply evil thing, and I fear for my 2-year-old son. This is a real fear, not a construction, and it should be okay to share the concern in a public forum without being attacked for saying something I'm not. But I know it will happen, anyway, because you cannot fight the tide.

As men, our expected place in society is to contain our emotions. To be silent. Our traumas are not ours to share. The social costs of doing otherwise are unbearable. Society has no tolerance for our victimhood. ...The Audacity!

So yes, exactly. No one cares about men.

This is the other side of the same coin. All the patriarchal bullshit gender roles that we were all raised with. The damage that women have suffered was more immediately obvious, but it hurts everybody.

It is about power, and in the US African-American and women (and LGBTQ and others) are widely discriminated against, and thus widely lack power. White people are much safer around police because they have power in the legal system (generally speaking about the entire country); they can protect themselves. An African-American teenager complaining about police abuse isn't likely to get far. Women complaining about sexual assault or harassment are routinely dismissed - literally, as a politically correct (by their politics) practice of some males I know.

The parent reads like the ever-present 'reverse discrimination' complaint, but it's not the same. Discrimination and prejudice are about power. If the abuser doesn't have the power, they are a lot less dangerous.

> White people are much safer around police because they have power in the legal system (generally speaking about the entire country); they can protect themselves.

This is true statistically, but I think OP's point is that statistics should not be used to dismiss individual experiences. Daniel Shaver was white, for example. Cheye Calvo was a white mayor when his house was raided (speaking of power!).

Thing is, police has too much power relative to the vast majority of citizens. The delta varies drastically between different population groups, but it's "too much" for all of them.

> This is true statistically

No, it's true really. White people, overall, really have much more real power. It's not a number in a report, but a hard fact of reality.

And then, any time racism comes up, lots of white people find any way to downplay it.

"Statistically true" is not the opposite of "really true". It just means that what's true overall is not necessarily true for every specific individual.

It's also a way of trivializing a real thing with real, serious impact, by omitting the 'real' aspect.

What sort reaction do you expect when you approach these sorts of conversations by essentially saying "your skin color tells me your entire life story, and disagreeing with me trivializes my own experiences"?

Not my words. Who are you quoting?

I believe that is exactly the point OP was trying to make?..

> White people are much safer around police because they have power in the legal system (generally speaking about the entire country); they can protect themselves.

This is Qanon-level conspiracy thinking. By and large, white folks are safer around police because their interactions are qualitatively different from the interactions Black folks have with police.

To be sure, this includes quite a bit of anti-Black racism within police forces, but even that is better described as prejudice than "white folks have undue power in the legal system". Also, to be clear, the criminal justice system does tend to screw over marginalized Black communities in countless ways - and this impacts the kinds of interactions Black folks have w/ police, but even that is a matter of bad structural/institutional design, not white folks individually having too much power.

That's one take, here is another: In some parts of the world, getting any help at all to women who are sexually victimized is so difficult that any discussion of men's trauma gets filtered as a zero-sum game.


Thanks for the link, although that is the stuff of nightmares. I had no idea such atrocities happened to anyone, men or women, even in times of war.

Even if the kinda of abuse that women experience tend to be far worse in magnitude, men in many parts of america (including myself) are almost universally mutilated at birth. I believe that this is abuse, and the current culture of laughing at circumcision or "intactivists" has led me to agree that no one gives a shit about men or the issues that they experience.

Maybe they just don't agree with you, and see it as potential cover for discrimination against a minority religion?

Thanks for being willing to say this.

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