The Perpetrator as “Victim”

By Debbie Baier

This is an excerpt from an article written by Debbie Baier for the Edmonton Journal. Copyright © 2002, Debbie Baier, All rights reserved. Not to be reprinted without permission of the author.

…Finally there is the perpetrator as victim. He becomes victimized by the people who profess to care about him and by those who are his caregivers. People often describe the perpetrator as a character with a lovable quirk. They don’t see him as engaging in a pattern of exploiting vulnerable people. They excuse his actions by blaming his victims, understating the seriousness of his actions, or pointing to all the good he has done within the parish. They play along with his drama and rather than help him identify his pattern and work towards recovery, they enable him to continue his destructive pattern.

When parishioners deny there is a problem and reinforce the perpetrator’s belief that he doesn’t have a problem, they are helping him to avoid facing the truth and they are hindering him in his need to work on overcoming the destructive pattern. These people would not buy him a bottle of wine for a gift if they knew that he were an alcoholic, yet they will be an enabler in his belief that in his reality he doesn’t have a problem. They will support this reality that he presents and reinforce his notion that the victim lied, the victim exaggerated, and the victim brought it on herself. He will put forward the notion that it is time to forget the past and move on. By doing so, he doesn’t seek the help that he needs to develop a healthier lifestyle. He is not encouraged to seek this healthier lifestyle by the people who love and respect him.

His caregivers are the church officials who replace the family unit. His superiors, who would state that he needs to feel their support, are also enabling the perpetrator. They reinforce the idea that the proper way to handle his repeated improprieties is to cover it up and move him to new surroundings where no one is aware of his perpetrator problems. They don’t deal directly with his problem and he is transferred into a new setting where he can recycle old habits. Truly his caregivers should acknowledge his problem and insist he receive professional treatment. They ought to monitor any regressions after therapy and they need to supply ongoing support so that when the problem reasserts itself, the safe guards are in place to immediately abate any abusive actions.

Debbie Baier is publisher of the “STOP CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE – An e-mail Newsletter for the Edmonton Archdiocese” available through

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