While not everyone with personality disorder are narcissistic child sex abusers (NCSA), all NCSA’s are personality disordered in some way and to some degree. If we keep in mind that the ‘cluster B personality disorders’ all overlap to some degree in observable behavior sets, there can be NCSA’s that range from mild narcissism to full blown psychopathy.
It is also important to understand that when it comes to child sexual abuse, the language and definitions get muddied because there is a great deal of overlap between mental health language, legal language, and cultural language regarding adults who perpetrate sexual crimes against children. There are strong elements of mental health and legal interventions that intersect in the conversation, response, and prevention of children being hurt by such adults.
And the rates of damaged children from adult sexual assault is staggering: the generally quoted statistics are one in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by an adult by the time the child is aged eighteen. While it is of course, important to protect kids by educating them, this alone has not and will not fully protect kids from adult sexual perpetrators; the community at large needs to step up to this issue and gain greater education and understanding of the perpetrators and how they are able to assault so many children.
Though it may sound like common sense, it bears repeating that NCSA’s can come from any strata of society, and often present as ‘regular people’; they rarely match the stereotyped sleazy guy in a trench-coat.
Like any good narcissist, NCSA’s can be quite charming and glib, especially to those that they must groom their image with. This not only includes the targeted child, but if the NCSA is a family member or a professional in the community, they must use these skills with all of the adults surrounding the targeted child(ren). Community image maintenance is an absolute must for the NCSA to continue to supply their sexual addiction. NCSA’s are often so profoundly talented at image grooming that people very, very close to them are totally surprised and devastated when the truth comes out, or support them with vehement denials of such behaviors.
Also like any garden variety narcissist, NCSA’s are compulsive liars and are totally selfish. Empathy for the effect on the child is non-existent. They clearly can discern that sex with a child is wrong by the standards of the society, but they decide to do this anyway, as their desires and their self-gratification are paramount. Besides this, their twisted thought processes have a plethora of irrational justifications for their behaviors. When caught, the justifications and excuses are so reliably ‘pat’, that it is a defining feature of guilt: that the child was ‘seductive’, or ‘asked to learn about sex’, or the NCSA was ‘cut off from adult sex’ by their spouse.
There is also the characteristic grandiosity of narcissism, and this may be expressed by culturing an adult community that praises them for their ‘work’ with kids, or their genuine talent that in some way attracts children. They are not shy about accepting the ‘big cheese’ label.
In as much as we can say all human sexual behavior is ‘addictive’ in the sense that most pleasurable activities are eagerly repeated, the added element for the NCSA in having sex with children is the fact that the behavior serves as an intense ‘supply’ that the N gains experience in getting and keeping. It is likely that it is the experience of narcissistic domination and control that is either the spark for the sexual gratification, or is in fact, more gratifying than the sexual behavior itself.
Though some NCSA’s are better at getting or keeping the supply, the addictive quality of their behaviors is well documented, yet still often overlooked by the general public and legal system. If the NCSA and victim(s) are related, there is often an unconscious or conscious press for the discovered behavior to be classified as ‘an incest incident’ and only pursued and penalized as a behavior contained to that one victim. Of course, this is never the case, because the discovered incident is the last of what could be dozens, if not hundreds of others. Like a ‘Terminator’, NCSA’s ‘absolutely, positively will not stop’.
When the NCSA is an ordained person, there are often strong elements of anger and rage at the (larger) ‘church’ or ‘Christianity’ by the NCSA that may have served to suppress or make the NCSA ashamed of their own basic sexual impulse. Paired with relationship inexperience, such people may turn to children as a far easier alternative to learning mature relationship and sexual skills. Add to this the adolescent rebellion common in the area of faith experience, and the buzz gained from doing something forbidden and ‘dirty’ may serve to enhance the addictive quality of the abusive behavior set that was likely innate in the seminary candidate before they even entered formal studies to be ordained.
There is some conflicting evidence that many NCSA’s were child victims of sexual abuse themselves, but this is not always the case, which requires further study to ascertain the differences between those who have and have not been abused as children.
Always true to the NPD profile, even after being undeniably discovered and removed from contact with kids, NCSA’s will still focus on themselves and their own suffering because of the ‘unjust, fabricated and totally false’ charges.
A child is an ideal victim for the NCSA, for a variety of reasons (most notably, of course, vulnerability), but this vulnerability needs to be explored to be fully understood.
As mentioned earlier, the NSCA may have precious little genuine skill in adult relationships, or they find that their incessant narcissistic need for control is harder to practice with adults. Though, as part of their image grooming, most NCSA’s are skilled enough in relationship to have a paramour or spouse to help cover their true nature.
The dynamic set-up includes the fact that a child is far less likely to cause the offending adult any narcissistic wounding, because children are less likely to have the ego-defense skills that an adult would employ against the emotionally abusive tactics that narcissists engage in.
For the NCSA, who can even lie to themselves incredibly well, the child represents a genuine, loving ‘relationship’, that is in fact only an auto-erotic, objectified, self-gratifying thing to be used as long as possible, or until the narcissist gets bored and moves on to another child. In addition, the victim(s) serve as psychological ‘scapegoats’ that the ANCSA may project their own guilt and feelings of being soiled to. This may partly explain why some ANCSA’s have so many victims, aside from the fact that the dumber ones make mistakes that create suspicions in surrounding adults.
The obvious imbalance of power is a big part of the rush for the narcissist-child-sex abuser: in their real life, they imagine or genuinely have little or no appropriate power that satisfies them. Sex with the child boosts their sense of power, omnipotence, and gives the illusion of being highly talented or skilled in some way.
By turning favor and affection, disfavor and vengeful threats off and on like a light switch, like any other Cluster B Personality Disorder, the abusive adult either totally ignores or does not have the ability to see, interpret, or understand the victim’s social cues of fear, rejection, displeasure, or trauma. And then atop all of this dynamic, the NCSA adds the coup de gras: they force the child to bear half the responsibility for the secret.
All of this, of course, creates an insidious, manipulative and impossible psychological dynamic web that the child directly experiences even prior to the inevitable sexual assault(s).
A Word About the Effects
The negative effects on the NCSA’s child victims hardly needs to be expanded upon; there is no aspect of the victim’s life that will not be negatively impacted by the intensity of this betrayal by and adult towards a child. But two important effects will be outlined here, as they are strongly representative and indicative of the damaging effects on the victim.
At some level, NCSA’s may understand that the child will dissociate so deeply from the sexual encounters that they will not mention the abuse to adults who could help them.
Yet not only does the victim separate themselves from the abuse in this fashion, but also from their own self, creating intense suffering and long term damage that could take decades to recover from. This also sets the child up for future relationships with Cluster B Personality Disorders that are sexually abusing, even into the victim’s adulthood. Such a pattern has been coined in the mental health community as: ‘Narcissistic Victim Syndrome’.
Though as human beings, all children are sexual, their sexuality is ‘turned way down low’ like a dial on a radio. The abusive intrusion by the NCSA artificially and prematurely ‘turns up the volume’ on the child’s sexuality. This sexualizing of the child is the first preference for the abuser, as there is often less overt resistance from the child when this is the tactic used. If the abuser is unable to spark the child’s curiosity or get the child to somehow enjoy the sexualized touch, the remaining tactics become coercion, shaming, and threats. Each of these tactics separately, in combination, or in an escalating pressure result in long-term total trauma for the child, including not only the physical trauma, but emotional, psychological, relational, and spiritual trauma as well.
As with many issues of community safety, systemic education efforts are key to preventing children from becoming victims to adults who sexually prey on kids. But in most cases, such systemic education does not exist, or is quite weak due to underfunding and even misinformation and resistant public opinion.
The general adult public needs to understand the basics about how NCSA’s operate, and the often subtle behavioral signs that they demonstrate that give themselves away as dangerous predators of children. The very first lesson is to be suspicious of every adult your child comes into contact with, because any of them could be a sexual predator. Adults who are in positions of relative power or relative respect, like coaches, instructors, or ministers should never be automatically considered safe or above scrutiny. You certainly do not need to be suspicious to the point of hysteria, but be suspicious and observant just the same. Secondly, be very warry of adults who are always seeming to be trying to get close you to as a friend or confidant in a too rapid fashion, while at the same time being very friendly to your kids. In most cases, if a sexual predator of children cannot groom the adults around the child well enough or fast enough, they move on to ‘easier pickings’. Lastly, if an adult around your child demonstrates behavioral characteristics common to any Cluster B Personality Disorder designation, the alarm bells should be going off loud and clear.
Because of the nature of child sexual abuse and the tendency for predators to so well groom their image, many rumors and accusations go unreported or under investigated by authorities. Any rumor, suspicion or accusation should be followed through to rigorous and thorough ends. When authorities indict an abuser, there should be a likewise rigorous and thorough investigation of history to discover the inevitable dozens of other victims of the perpetrator. When this is not done by law enforcement and courts, the perpetrator may only be getting a penalty for the single discovered incident, and thus will likely see the light of day once again in short order to continue to ply their dark avocation. Each and every perpetrator who attains eventual freedom from incarceration should be closely and aggressively monitored for life.