Human Predators: Human Prey
They walk among us. Maybe they were us. Human predators seeking to exploit human prey.
In my work, I see them. I have known them. Most people probably wouldn’t notice if they saw a predatory human. They look like anyone. They don’t have fangs or horns, they may or may not have tattoos or distinguishing marks. Most have regular jobs and families. They are usually men, but can be women too.
These people are usually old enough to have expendable money to pay for their experience. Many probably think the exchange is a regular commerce type, but in reality it is often exploitive. When I was exploited for prostitution or for labor, my buyers knew how old I was. They looked for minors. It was that experience that they sought particularly.
Many of the men who paid to have sex with me were violent and cruel. Some were indifferent to my age or circumstance and others were ignorant of the trauma that I suffered at the hands of others, so my behavior as compliant and submissive was seen as not only consenting but even initiating.
As the prey, I continued to behave as expected. Conditioned to respond to my environment and to those around me. The early childhood trauma had set forth patterns of behaviors that I had no idea could be broken and reworked.
The idea of agency or choice over the trajectory of my life was completely foreign. I, like so many others today, was not aware of the concept. I was acting out of a place of deep brokenness. My rebellion was a sign of the pain and turmoil within. The cascade of neurotransmitters, stress hormones, and regular teen angst came together in volcanic episodes, releasing and building up and releasing again for years.
Stumbling through life blindly, clawing and striving to stay on track with basic life skills was all consuming and exhausting. Relapse and illness were inevitable. Then, guilt and shame compound the insecurities to make trying again harder each time. Holding down a job or learning something new often causes so much stress that unconscious self sabotage seems to follow every new endeavor. Failure and frustration exacerbates the cycle again and again.
If prey can be transformed, so too can predators.
As I contemplate the massive change in my circumstances and the internal struggles to break out of the terrible ruts, it occurs to me that I am a different person. Changed intentionally and with great effort. I am no longer a victim in any way. I need not revert to patterns of behavior to get my needs met or advance in my work.
What of my abusers?
I sent away for the records from the Department of Youth and Families from when I was a teen. It was very difficult to read and I found myself full of all sorts of emotional responses. From angry and desirous of judgment to betrayed by the social workers who knew the names and locations of my abusers. Then, overwhelmingly sad that there are so many kids today facing the same and even worse, because of dysphoria and the terrible assaults against their identity in this culture.
All at once, I began to wonder if my abusers were changed as well. Had they become aware of their impact? Perhaps they too have outgrown the angst of youth and become people of integrity and honor.
My first trafficker was nine years older than me. At just twenty-five, if he had trauma in his childhood, he may have had a retarded pre-frontal cortex and maybe his brain development over time came with regrets.
Rather than look up the statute of limitations for abuse, maybe a search of his life in these years would reveal a changed man. It is a question on the table for me. At what point do we go back and hold people accountable?
Justice and mercy have been on my mind, even as I have been creating the course for pregnancy resource centers all these months. So, reading the record has brought it to the forefront. The thought of who is responsible and who is to be held accountable is a mired mess in my mind. It will take some processing and serious thought to come to any kind of conclusion.
The Root Problem
Of course, the root problem is ignorance of the true nature of our beings by people in general and particularly those who have access to abuse others. We were created to be the pinnacle of God’s creation, but sin and all that the distance from God’s love that it imposes means that we have a shame based nature.
Hope and Healing
Healing is a process. If you have been predator or prey, I hope you are on the path to healing too. Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you have a history of abuse or obtaining justice?