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Barriers Abusers Overcome In Order To Abuse

Individuals who have experienced abuse often focus on their own actions (or inactions) and blame themselves for their own abuse. This client information handout encourages perspective-taking and explores reasons why abusers are motivated to abuse and the obstacles they overcome in order to do so.

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Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often feel inappropriately responsible for their abuse. In 1984 the sociologist David Finkelhor published a model explaining the stages an abuser must go through in order to abuse. He identified four stages:
  • Sexual motivation (wanting to abuse)
  • Overcoming internal inhibitions against acting on that motivation
  • Overcoming external impediments to committing sexual abuse
  • Undermining or overcoming the child's natural resistance to the sexual abuse
Barriers Abusers Overcome In Order To Abuse is an information sheet and checklist detailing the stages abusers go through. It can be useful as a source of information, or for starting discussions on this topic with clients.


This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:
  • Client handout - use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point - use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool - improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource - use as a learning tool during training


  • Finkelhor, D. (1984). Child sexual abuse. New York. Finkelhor, D. (1984). The prevention of child sexual abuse: An overview of needs and problems. Siecus Report, 13(1), 1-5.