It’s the same sexual-offender song & dance, even if they happen to walk red carpets with A-listers or perform for sold-out stadium crowds.

This weekend we had two big stories about sexual assault allegations trending. They aren’t getting NEAR the attention they deserve, but I need to point out some very critical things that should be obvious, yet may not be to some of you who have never been on this side of sexual victimization.

Abusers like to make themselves out to be the victims. Yes, you heard that right. THEY are somehow the victim.

As in, they’re a “victim of a false allegation” or, they were victimized by whomever told others about their behavior. Never mind their own actions, the blame will always fall on those who dare speak out against them.

Harvey Weinstein

Within a short few news cycles, we had the rapper Nelly being arrested on allegations of sexual assault and Harvey Weinstein being called to the carpet for what was apparently YEARS of abusive and deviant behavior. A character that was Hollywood’s best kept non-secret.

Regardless of what details surround either of these men, I want to show you a few hallmark offender traits on full display with both of these cases. Keep in mind that just because these men are famous, these gas lighting tactics still take place in most sexually offense scenarios.

Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., known as the rapper “Nelly”

First, as I alluded to early, the abuser will claim he is the victim. For any number of reasons, but of course he isn’t capable of doing something like that. You know him. He would never do that. Also, look at this timely photo of him volunteering to help at a local children’s shelter 5 years ago. Moral fiber and all that.

Second, their own PR smear-campaign is launched to trash the actual victim. Maybe it’s her former promiscuity, a drinking problem, her fashion choices, her past relationships, maybe she’s just looking for money or attention or to hurt this person’s reputation. Whatever it is, it’s always one-sided and there is never a shared-blame narrative. No, we leave the shame and self-blame all to the victims. All of these attacks upon a victim’s character are meant to cast doubt and to dehumanize a person who did not choose to find herself in this situation in the first place.

Third, the offender lets the court of public opinion preside. With only one story being told, posted on social media, or passed along via word of mouth, the victim is suddenly somehow to blame. And no, we cannot fault these women for not speaking up for themselves. One time doing may be more than many survivors ever will.

The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot c. 2011

We are so quick to look for reasons someone was a victim of crime because psychologically, we want to identify things which we may have control over while distancing ourselves from any traits we may share with that victim. If we are somehow unlike this person, then we in turn could not be assaulted or robbed or killed as well. It’s a simple concept called optimism bias that we subconsciously exercise many times a day. It gives us a sense of mental preservation, if you will and is basically a concept short for “It won’t happen to me” syndrome.

I want to make something clear here. Just because Nelly and Harvey Weinstein are prominent members of society, the power and control they’ve exerted over their victims in order to abuse them is not solely because of their wealth or fame.

Rape, sexual assault, and molestations are are all about control. An abuser has power over his victim, and that is the ultimate reward for them. It isn’t sexual gratification, and don’t let some basement keyboard warrior try to tell you otherwise. It is the ability to have power over another individual and to control their actions. Power and control are why these deviants behave in a predatory manner towards younger, weaker, less powerful, or what they perceive as inferior women. The worst part is they appear to be just like any other regular ole’ guy.

It’s their manipulative, deceptive behaviors which allow them to avoid social accountability.

Criminally speaking, sexual assault is one of the hardest crimes to formally charge and furthermore, to prove in a court of law. It is difficult to convince a jury that pain, suffering, and traumatic damage has occurred when those scars are internal. Unfortunately, some cases of sexual assault lack sufficient evidence both in quality and quantity to be charged.

Findings of guilty or not-guilty in a courtroom are based solely upon the legal definitions of sexual assault and the presented evidence and testimony to back up those charges. Just because it can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a courtroom does not mean an assault did not happen.

This crime may look like something that may be welcomed by a woman in other situations.

But without consent,

What looks like sex is actually rape.

What looks like foreplay is actually assault.

What sounds like a flirtatious advance is sexual harassment.

So keep an eye on these news stories when you hear someone has been accused of sexual misconduct or arrested on allegations of sexual assault. I almost guarantee you’ll see these hallmark offender traits each and every time.

If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support services, please contact your local advocacy group, or RAINN.org to be instantly connected with an advocate. You may also call their 24/7 hotline at (800) 656-4673.

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