Why Do Therapists Ask for the Age of An Abuser?

Reader’s Question

Why do therapists always ask how old my brother was when he sexually abused me? Over the years I’ve seen several therapists and they always ask that. What difference does it make? (So the answer is, I was 7 and he was 14.)

Psychologist’s Reply

This is a common question that is asked for several reasons. First, the difference in ages tells the therapist a lot about the psychological makeup of your brother. Older perpetrators are likely to be more criminal and antisocial, thus likely to threaten or intimidate their victims. A wide age difference between the victim and abuser also suggests that other psychological factors may be related, but again to the abuser. Your age at the time of the abuse is also important in therapy.

While the question is very common, it is very important from the treatment standpoint. Information such as the age of the abuser may actually change the direction of the treatment approach. Extreme age differences in sexual abuse cases, as when adults victimize children under the age of 13 in pedophilia, reflects a combination of severe sexual deviancy and criminal behavior. In this manner, the age of the victim, the age of the abuser, and the age difference are very important from a clinical standpoint.

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