Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen, Michael Douglas, Scott Disick — all men who are admitted “sex addicts.”
And now, Harvey Weinstein, at the center of one of the biggest sex scandals to ever hit Hollywood, has entered into a sex rehab near Scottsdale, Arizona, hoping to better himself and re-emerge ready for a “second chance” with his loved ones.
But according to experts (who have not worked directly with the former Weinstein Co. boss but have dealt with thousands of sex addiction cases), based on the reports and claims of the accusers, Harvey isn’t a sex addict, but a sexual predator, who used his power to humiliate and scare young actresses who relied on him to start their careers.
There's a big difference.
Chris Samuels has been the Director of The Sexual Addiction Treatment and Training Institute based in New York City for the past 25 years, and tells Personal Space there are many different types of sex addiction programs; not all are designed alike.
“We have worked with thousands of sex addicts,” Samuels says. “Although it is possible [Harvey] is both, there are different dynamics to them, different motivations, and differences in how they view their own behaviors. Sexual predators are purely opportunistic and when they get the chance to take advantage, they do.”
Samuels says that the main difference is that sex addicts use sex as “a drug” to help them deal with difficult feelings, and that it is consensual. “It’s designed to bring relief. It can be manipulative, like any addiction, but it’s consensual. Sexual predatory behavior meanwhile is often motivated by hatred, and they blame the other person for their behavior. A predator is somebody who does not take the other’s person into account. Sound familiar?”
Sexual predators are also “power oriented.” “If they can get it, they take it; the other person's feelings don’t matter,” Samuels says. “They are often unattractive men who have become powerful but are insecure. They prey on people they can.”
While a sexual perpetrator may or may not come from a traumatic childhood, Samuels has found that sex addicts often either have extreme neglect or abuse in their background, and can often get to the roots doing deeper trauma healing and manage their condition.
“They tend to stop acting out when you get to the root of the problem. A perpetrator is much more difficult to work with.”
With an opportunistic perpetrator, where do you even begin?
“Perpetrators can’t feel for themselves,” Samuels explains, “so until they realize what it was like to feel the pain of their victims, that they are never going to feel sympathy towards their own victims. They can’t see consequences.”
It’s hard to tell what Harvey’s recovery program will be like, explains Samuels, since he rotates between admitting he’s hurt people, to threatening to sue over reports that claim he’s raped, harassed, and abused dozens of women. It’s clear he’s not had a come-to-Jesus moment.
“He may be just a power-oriented, very unattractive bully,” Samuels says. “There’s a hole in their soul that is malignant narcissism. I can’t diagnose him, but he does not appear to care about anybody.”
Debra Kaplan, a master's level clinical sex addiction therapist, makes it clear that sex addiction is not the same as sexual offending.
“The two are not the same,” she says. “Sexual offending carries legal implications, laws that are broken, and harassment [with] control and choice being taken from the participant.”
Although she has never met Harvey, she says that if someone chooses to go to rehab to understand why have they have chosen to be sexually unhealthy, that is a step in the right direction, even if they were forced to go.
“If he has behaviors sexually that have negative life consequences, that can be addressed in rehab,” she says. “There may also be legal implications — he may need treatment that is much more along the lines of dealing with sexual offenses.”
Kaplan explains that Harvey will first be diagnosed, then assigned the proper treatment program.
“The underlying narcissism and predatory behavior can be looked at, but addiction does not come with a cure. Some behaviors can’t be managed, it may be a disease,” she says. “If you’re looking at people that abuse their power or position to exploit the vulnerable, you can try to examine where they have chosen to cross the line to exploit others weaknesses. Narcissism is in play when sex and shame are used together to exploit.”
"Power, sex, and money coming together can be very explosive," she adds. And having that taken away is often an eye-opener for the predator.
“Anyone who decides by choice or that they are about to lose something important to them, like family, job, or public image, to go to rehab, whatever the reason someone is going to work on themselves is always helpful,” Kaplan says. “The loss of family and job, taken away by their own behavior renders them as powerless as they have rendered their victims. Whether or not getting help is driven by the ultimate motivation to change behavior remains to be seen.”
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