COMMUNITY LEADERS AND PROBLEM SEXUAL BEHAVIORS
Media reports of problem sexual behaviors by political, school and religious leaders are common. The offenders often deny, minimize or blame others. The communities they serve are shocked and find it hard to believe that their trusted leaders have been caught in a violation of sexual boundaries. Their leaders have been living double lives. Such leaders often use their power to obtain sexual gratification. The objects of their “love” later become their accusers once they realize they have been victimized.
Using the power entrusted them to violate a sexual boundary, violates not only the victims but also the community they serve. Violating this trust usually results in disciplinary action by the boards that oversee the community leader, and sometimes, disciplinary action from the courts as well. The disciplinary action does not usually solve the basic problem of the sexual compulsive. Too often we learn of repeated violations later in a new locale.
In many cases of repetitive problem sexual behaviors, the addiction model readily explains irrational behavior which is easily understood by patients and family members, and leads to effective treatment. Addiction is a concept that traditionally was applied only to out-of-control use of alcohol and other drugs. Now however, the term addiction is routinely used to describe and diagnose behaviors such a gambling, overeating, and sex when they are out of control. To addiction specialists familiar with these behaviors, the parallels with use of alcohol or other drugs are obvious. In many cases, addiction treatment has been successful when “will power” or traditional therapy has failed.
The key elements of any addiction, whether chemical or behavioral are:
Addictions are defined not by how much of the drug or behavior is used, but rather the effects on the person’s life. An addiction can be suspected when the behavior has made the person’s life unmanageable. Some clues regarding sex addiction are:
For the sex addict, sexual behaviors that are secretive, illicit or dangerous carry an even greater internal experience of intensity or arousal (high) which thus encourages irrational choices. This is no different than the compulsive gambler who will gamble far beyond his/her limit to do so, aroused and distracted by the intensity of the process. Some sexual behaviors that may represent an addictive disorder are:
. Multiple extramarital affairs
The majority of sex addicts, have had parents or other significant family members with histories of alcoholism, drug dependency, abuse or other significant family dysfunction. Often they were sexualized or exposed to sexual experience at an early age. This type of history works to distort their adult relationships and can encourage the isolation and superficiality, which is a hallmark of addictive disorders.
Addiction therapists have long recognized that addicts often enlist enablers who buy into their denial and minimize the seriousness of the violations. When the overseers of the community leaders become enablers, they become part of the problem, not the solution. Arriving at the solution means coming to a greater understanding of sexual compulsiveness in the work place. Help is needed for the person who violates the sexual boundary, the direct victims, governing boards who supervise the community leader, and the communities they serve.
While it may be tempting to diagnose a community leader’s problems based on hearsay from media accounts, accurate assessment requires a face-to-face evaluation of the individual and knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the behavior.
Good understanding about effective treatment and recovery is available through some of the therapists listed on the NCSAC website www.ncsac.org. This website also has a listing of books, information sheets relating to sexual addiction and a listing of treatment centers. Effective treatment for sexual addiction and the problems it creates for others, involves the same approach as any other chemical or behavioral addiction. It involves therapy from a counselor, and involvement in 12-Step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Family members and others who have been affected by someone else’s addictive behavior, can get help from some of the therapists listed on the NCSAC website who are trained to help those affected by another’s addictive behavior. In addition, there are 12-Step support programs especially designed for families and friends as well. The names and addresses of these co-dependency 12-Step programs will be found on the website as well.
The process of recovery brings all concerned away from their distortion and denial, and forces them to realistically confront themselves and the damage that has been caused by the problem of sexual behavior of a community leader.