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Motivations Behind Sexual Harassment

Evening Edition

The mayor is accused of sexual harassment. We take a closer look at what motivates someone to sexually harass others, what treatment is available and does it work?

Mayor Bob Filner admitted he needs help.

"I have begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach, in addition my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city," Filner said in a videotaped statement released Thursday afternoon in response to sexual harassment accusations.

Filner stopped short of saying he sexually harassed anyone. But, what does his participation in treatment really mean and how likely is it to change behavior?

San Diego psychotherapist David Peters says there are a number of issues that could lead someone to sexually harass others.

“In most cases the sexual harasser is someone who’s got impulse control problems, there’s immaturity and some unmet intimacy needs from long ago, childhood or adolescent conflicts that are unresolved and they’re truly trying to enjoy the social interaction and the arousal of it with denying that they’re doing any harm,” Peters says.

During his apology, Mayor Filner said he plans to reach out to current and former staff, both men and women.

"In the next few days, I will be reaching out to those who now work in the Mayor's Office or have previously worked for me - both men and women - to personally apologize for my behavior," Filner said.

Peters says an apology could go very poorly if it’s not done with absolute sincerity.

“We can often tell if someone’s just going through the motions to patch up a relationship or whether someone is truly contrite and truly looking at themselves deeply," he says.

Peters says it would take a long time to understand whether someone who sexually harasses others could be rehabilitated.

Peters says he would want to, "find out if there is a compulsive disorder, is there a mental illness, if not then what’s with the immaturity?

"What are the issues in the background that have led to this behavior and as I’ve said, given that someone has been confronted many times before, this is a long piece of work in most cases. I’ve not met the mayor, I don’t know the case individually, but given the general facts no matter who it is, probably a long period of time.”

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Avatar for user 'mareelliott'

mareelliott | July 12, 2013 at 8:53 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm curious about Filner's implication that he hasn't already had sexual harassment training. At the very least, he should have undergone such training within 6 months of taking office. Not that it would have mattered. He seems to think he's above the law.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | July 13, 2013 at 8:07 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

power is a great motivation for some.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | July 13, 2013 at 11:34 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Until credible evidence is presented the accusations of sexual harassment by Bob Filner are baseless. I understand the persons may be afraid of retaliation if they speak out. Bob Filner is a powerful politician who has never lost a political race. He has friends in the right places. But these same friends have called for Filner's resignation, not his political opponents, who are probably basking in the sun over this bu 'haha.

I believe the reason nothing has been done to stop harassment by Filner is due to no one having brought forward credible evidence to suggest Bob Filner is an abuser of women, and bullying men. This doesn't mean Filner hasn't abused anyone, it's simply very difficult to prove abuse. And you will be surprised how different people view sexual harassment from 'actual' sexual harassment. In my time I've seen more persons come forward with false claims of harassment to escape their own inappropriate behavior and poor performance in the workplace. I've seen people gang up against managers and coworkers with false claims just to get the person transferred or fired.

The next steps for the accusers are to come forward publicly with credible evidence to support their claims of sexual harassment. Then they need to file charges. Then their case goes to court, and so on....

Retaliation against the accusers at this point is a non-issue. Filner can't go after them with his friends standing by them. It would not surprise me in the least if Filner beats their claims of harassment because the perception of harassment is decidely different from actual harassment.

Personally, I believe he's likely guilty due to his track record in the short time he's been sitting as mayor. His lack of people skills and communications skills, the petty quibbling with the attorney general, his inability to bring people in local government together are all signs of a man who has yet to learn the higher up you go, the more you must compromise.

All that said, it's now time for the accusers to make their case.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 13, 2013 at 1:38 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Peters, for all his articulation, failed to mention here one important factor pertaining to people like Filner, he is in a position of power. That makes a huge difference, perhaps ALL the difference.

Now, whether he is actually guilty or not remains to be seen. I am simply stating one chief motivation that the psych forgot. Why even someone in Peters' position would be someone in a position of power.

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Avatar for user 'ericdamian'

ericdamian | July 14, 2013 at 6:08 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

I encourage Bob to stay on as long as he can. The longer he hangs on the greater likelihood maximum political destruction will be done to the leftist cabal in this town.

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