Psychotherapist Dawn Horwitz-Person works with victims of sexual abuse, as well as the men and woman who abuse. What has she learned from child molesters? Find out. The warning signs you should look out for and misconceptions about molesters. Plus, how potential abusers can get help.
Q: How did you get started in this practice?
A: I started working with victims, and I still work with victims, but it occurred to me that no matter how many of us help victims, it is not going to stop sexual abuse. It is like the river scenario where the offenders are upstream throwing victims down the river and all the therapists, social workers, etc. who are downstream are pulling victims out of the river. That does nothing to stop the problem. It occurred to me that by working with offenders, I could better understand the problem; and that I was helping stop victimization by getting to the root of the problem. I feel like it has made me a better therapist to victims because I can help them work through taking the blame off themselves and understand that it is not their fault. I can give them real examples of set up processes, grooming, the time put into planning, etc. When they understand how they were set up and how much time and effort was put into the planning of their offense, they are better able to let go of the shame and blame that victims often feel. I also feel it helps to make me a better therapist to people who offend, as well, as I can use in-the-moment, daily examples to help them learn some empathy.
But, most importantly, I do it because of my grandfather. He was an amazing role model and mentor in my life. He always seemed to just do good things. Besides his family, the most important things to him were education and community service. His daily words and actions always matched those values.