Sex Abuse and Schizophrenia

I have had many years to consider the relationship between my diagnosis of Schizophrenia (subsequently changed to a lessor charge) and being sexually molested as a child by those presumably in network with the Catholic Church. Much of my conclusions are related in my memoir (atheoryof.me: a memoir) but perhaps more indirectly than should be the case for the gravity of the matter. The problem with firm conclusions, however, revolve around the complexity of the following issues:

1) Schizophrenia is a symptomatic disorder, which is to say that you are given this diagnosis based on symptoms not based on underlying conditions. Symptoms may vary, they need not include ‘hearing voices’, and people may be misdiagnosed, but there is no biological test, because the illness itself is symptomatic.

2) There is not one condition which brings about the symptoms of Schizophrenia; there are multiple potential underlying conditions, ‘a cluster’ (see “Surviving Schizophrenia”); and none of them – even if present and to some degree ‘apparent’ – amount to Schizophrenia, neither on their own nor taken together.

3) Even if being molested as a child did help bring about the symptoms of Schizophrenia – as it can clearly cause, among other things, a persistent fear, which is a close cousin of paranoia – there is no reason to believe the sexual molestation causes the underlying conditions.

The link missing in the explanation is why, or if, those with the underlying conditions are in fact more likely to be abused; or whether that should be dismissed as coincidence. The truth is, I believe, to be found in the nature of the abuse.

In my experience, the sexual molestation was not for anyone’s gratification. It was for control via humiliation. A certain lack of an ability to control a person can be perceived in the basic symptoms of the conditions underlying Schizophrenia itself. This is what I have indicated as the ‘apparent’ nature of the conditions, independent of any symptoms warranting a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, proper. The result is that the abuser can, quite clearly, be seen as punishing the abused for their condition, in order to better control them (by humiliation). And certainly the unspeakable harm done by the abusers can give rise to symptoms (given the conditions) warranting a proper diagnosis of Schizophrenia.

Of course, if the connection between Schizophrenia and a history of being abused holds true generally (albeit probablistically and statistically), it creates further problems for those with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. First, there are studies linking a history of having been abused to being abusers. If authorities take these studies at their word, they could place those with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia under greater suspicion than they already are. Meanwhile, those who sought to humiliate their victims with abuse when they were young are more than happy to raise suspicion against their victims (and deflect blame from themselves) by calling them abusers (not to mention ‘Schiz’) in what can amount to a persecution within a community at a later time in life. Management of this burden, while overcoming economic hardship due to the shadow cast by stigma, can lead to homelessness or suicide. These are extremely weighty matters for a community as well as those who are or have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia and/or have been abused, and it is important to consider the degree of validity in the connections involved.

First, not all those diagnosed with Schizophrenia were sexually molested; the rate at which this is the case is unknown and the connection not generally established. The studies on the probability of the abused becoming abusers principally give the percentages of those who have been found guilty of abuse who were also abused as children; and it should not be forgotten that the probability that one was abused given one is an abuser is not the same as the probability that one is an abuser given that one was abused. Furthermore, if the data on whether an abuser was abused is collected by asking the abuser if they were abused, one can expect that these numbers would be inflated by a propensity to deflect blame. Finally, the propensity of abused to become abusers depends to a great extent on, among other matters, the stability of the home and family they grew up in. All of this makes it very strictly a mistake to fear or raise suspicion against anyone who was abused or has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, on this basis alone or rumor alike (not to mention the possible fabrication of corroborating evidence); and puts a responsibility on society to intervene in those situations where suspicion against a child, later in life, might be due, if nothing is done today.

The most important thing for our society to realize is that in the middle of all of this, there is a person. They are not some preprogrammed automaton simply programmed by competing forces forever incapable of acting according to their will, but a thinking, living human being who can make choices to be a good citizen and decide their role in serving their community. If they are ostracized, they are not given that chance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *