One of the things I learned from my work in counseling and ministry has been the devastating effect of sexual assault on children. The recent hoo-rah about Rev. Debra's run-in with Bill O'Reilly got me thinking about the adults I know who were sexually molested as children and the effect of that experience on their adult lives. The thought that initially popped into my mind was "I wonder if Bill O'Reilly was the victim of sexual assault as a child". Now, there's no logical reason for me to have that thought, but his responses to Debra were so odd and his public personal relationship history is so iffy that I immediately felt a bit suspicious. You know, the old "He doth protest too much" response.
Bill's clearly got a few hangups and I don't know what the facts of his history are nor do I much care. However, I do know, from personal and professional experience, that a child who has been sexually assaulted, prematurely sexualized, has a lot to overcome, as s/he matures. Many of those children do just fine; they may get some psychological help or they may have adequate support and good parenting to help them overcome the damage to their self-esteem and sense of identity.
But those children who are not so lucky may carry with them throughout their lives a submerged sense of shame and guilt that affects their intimate adult relationships, may cause them to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, may cause them to act out in anti-social ways, may cause them to attempt suicide, may keep them so paralyzed by anxiety that they are unable to form strong adult partnerships, or may cause them to act out sexually in potentially damaging ways.
Over the years, I've encountered many, many people who were sexually violated as children, both males and females. Some began to deal with the assault as teenagers, some as adults, many shoved it into their subconscious and have never dealt with it therapeutically. Some even considered the encounter a good thing, a loving thing, unwilling to recognize that an adult who uses a child sexually is abusing the child.
I've seen a variety of responses in adults who were prematurely sexualized as children, whether by an adult who fondled or raped them or by an adult who seduced them as early adolescents into a sexual relationship which was unequal in its power. The most common responses I've seen in those adults are anxiety about relationships, difficulty in committing to an intimate relationship, anger toward authority, self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or gambling, sex addiction, depression, and suicidal ideation. And I've seen them become promiscuous sexually in an effort to overcome their fear of sexual relationships.
There is a myth out there that a teenage boy who is seduced by an older person, male or female, is clearly ahead of his peers, that he has been initiated into the adult world of sexuality and is the envy of his friends. My experience with friends and clients is that the opposite is true, even though the adult he is now acts proud of his early experience. If I were to create an imaginary person, a composite of the several men I know who were seduced by males or females at a too-early age, that person would be divorced with a history of short-term relationships, infidelity, and commitment-phobia. He would be an alcoholic or have other addictive behaviors. He might joke about his early initiation and consider it a feather in his cap. He might be extremely homophobic or fearful of same-sex affection or he may overcompensate in such an area, to mask his anxiety about it. He may be extremely disorganized and unable to overcome his anger, not able to understand where it comes from.
Sexual assault of children, whether young kids or adolescents, is a terrible thing. Children can survive it well with help and good parental support. However, the kind of fear promoted by Bill O and his ilk creates additional fear and shame in victims, makes it less likely that they will get support and help, and increases the damage that the child will have to deal with as an adult.
I think at least some of the homophobia out there is caused by adult males who were assaulted by male pedophiles and have internalized that fear and loathing of the experience to the point where they "hate fags", to use the terminology on the posters of the Fred Phelps crew. Many men have a hard time admitting they were sexually molested; the men who are bringing suit against the Catholic church have had to overcome their fear and shame in order to do it and even now are ridiculed and suspected of deceit. Some of them may be false claimants, but most are apparently not.
And whether or not the priests who were guilty were pedophiles (many clearly were pedophiles) or gay men (and many were), all of these molesters were in a position of power over the children and teens they molested. That inequality of power and suspicion of the motives of the injured victim are the devastating conditions that all victims must cope with.