Is a child to blame for being sexually abused? Of course not. Anyone who blames a child for being the victim of such a heinous act is clearly not in their right mind. Yet the adults who were sexually abused in childhood often do blame themselves.
I receive posts and emails from adult survivors just about every day. They almost all carry shame and blame for what happened to them. They chastise themselves for the choices and lack of choices they made as children. They apply adult values and morals to what happened to them. And for the lack of action they took as children. Typically:
They blame themselves for not stopping the abuse.
(As if they could have.)
They blame themselves for not telling.
(As if they believed they would be believed.)
They blame themselves for liking the attention.
(As if they are to blame for being a vulnerable child in need.)
They blame themselves for feeling loved.
(As if they are capable as children to determine what true love is.)
They blame themselves when their abuser abuses others.
(As if they are responsible for what the abuser did.)
(As if the reasons above make them responsible.)
Children don't tell for a variety of fear-based reasons.
- They fear breaking up the family.
- They fear the way they will be judged by the adults in their lives
- They fear abuse of other family members, and believe that by "allowing" the abuse to continue with them they are protecting others in the family.
Too many adults don't believe when a child discloses. Not only is this lack of believing a huge betrayal in the child's life, it sets that child up for further abuse. And later yet, for abuse in relationships.
If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse, the next time you go to blame your Self for that abuse, try this 5-step exercise:
- Identify the age you were when you were abused.
- Seek out a child of that same age (a niece, nephew, grandchild, neighborhood child, etc).
- Look closely at that child. Pay attention to the size and abilities of that child.
- Ask yourself, "Would I blame this child for being abused?"
- If the answer is "no", substitute your child Self for that child. If the answer is "yes", you're beyond the help of this blog.
Shame and blame for abuse belongs squarely on the abuser.
End of story.