"Participant Victim": Oncology of an Oxymoron

©2008 by David L. Riegel.

For many decades the social sciences have struggled with the issue of the child who, in flagrant violation of cultural taboos, willingly cooperates in sexual intimacies with an older person, or even seeks out and initiates such activities. While some social scientists have accepted the reality of this collaboration, others presume the child to be a de facto victim. This latter assignment, however, is contradicted by the child's willing involvement, a conundrum which led in the 1950s to the unlikely combining of two essentially diametrically opposed words into the phrase "participant victim." For a time, various authors embraced this concept; however, as victimology and child sexual abuse anxiety began to take hold in the late 1970s, the "victim" was redefined as absolutely incapable of being a "participant," and the phrase has fallen into disuse.