One of my more controversial articles on Hathor has been How Not to Raise a Rapist. In it, I assert that the way to avoid raising a son or daughter who sexually assaults people is simply not to abuse your kids (the logic behind which is in the post). The comment thread brought up a form of abuse that not everyone recognized as abuse: teaching your child that he is the special golden chose one to whom no rules apply. It doesn’t sound abusive on the surface, does it? I got a lot of questions about how this upbringing is abusive and how it produces the sort of people who can commit such crimes as rape. I’m answering that question here, since it’s more a privilege issue than a gender equality issue (though gender privilege does tie in).
Empathy is a learned behavior. When parents have empathy, they teach it to their kids without even realizing it – it seems to “come naturally” because it was learned so young, while the brain was still forming (between eighteen months and four years).
But if the parent doesn’t have empathy, they can’t teach it to the child. And because they don’t see the child as equally human to themselves, these parents may abuse their children in the physical ways we can easily recognize as abuse. But they have another option, a sneakier one: they can manipulatively groom the child to be incredibly vain and selfish for the parents’ own purpose, which is usually extension of the parent’s ego via the child. Through the child, they seek to experience accomplishments, to punish enemies, etc. The child’s identity isn’t allowed to form as it would with an empathetic parent: the child is simply pushed to see himself as a super star, to achieve power by trampling others, to be a “success” who “takes what he wants” and “won’t take no for an answer” because these are the parents’ fantasies of grandeur.
The child’s developing personality is entirely subsumed – and warped – by the parent’s machinations, which are exploitative and grossly selfish. It’s most often boys who are groomed in this manner, since a girl couldn’t possibly enjoy all the triumphs of which the embittered parent dreams. This results in the psychiatric disorder Hazelwood believes most sex offender have (see original article), Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It’s essentially untreatable, and adults with it are extremely exploitative of others.
Children groomed in this manner have been deprived of personal identity and the chance ever to connect with another human being in the meaningful way (empathy) that makes us different from the reptiles. Despite any appearance of personal success and happiness, they will never experience the feelings of intimacy, bonding and love that most of us take for granted. Because they lack empathy, they lack conscience, and therefore compassion. The basis of this disorder is believed to be incredible shame – such shame that the child buried it early on and constructed a false “self”, a sort of second personality that believes itself godlike and expects to be worshiped accordingly. But deep down, it always feels inadequate, and lives in terror of someone else seeing that inadequacy.
This is what the empathy-free parent wanted. This is a person who will hurt others and sleep like a baby afterwards. This is the parent’s monster to turn loose on society, in whose triumphs the empathy-free parent will delight. And the parent will expect everyone to admire the child.
Deliberately, if unconsciously, warping a child’s personality so he cannot possibly learn to love, care or share is definitely a form of abuse. This is never an act of ignorance: the parent may not understand what he is doing, precisely, but he is always doing it for himself, without genuine concern for the child’s well-being. Don’t confuse this careful grooming with parenting styles that perhaps go overboard on encouraging high self-esteem or lavishing a child with material things: those upbringings may result in arrogant adults or adults with above-average entitlement. But it takes a special sort of training to produce a rapist.
See the original article for several sources. This is not an opinion piece. It is based on psychiatric research.