Tuesday, 18 December 2012

About guilt, shame and innocence

A lot has been written about the guilt and shame that abuse survivors suffer from, especially male survivors of sexual abuse. Often, even after we've come to reject that stigmas that society clouds us with, it is still near impossible to shake feelings of guilt and shame.

What I've realised in the past few weeks, is that the guilt is a crutch in itself. A dysfunctional crutch, yes, but a crutch no less. It's all about control.

When a child is abused, there an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. The perpetrator is bigger and stronger, even if only mentally, and he overpowers the victim and forces him to do things that violate his very being. The victim is powerless to resist. Even adult victims of sexual assault reports an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and of loosing control of their bodies. When the victim is a small child and the perpetrator is someone who is already in a position of authority, the power balance is skewed even before the abuse occurs. Afterwards, should the victim speak out, it is often only to discover that no one believes him, or worse - that no one is prepared to help him. This adds another load to the weight of helplessness that the victim is already carrying around.

It becomes almost essential to recover some resemblance of power.

In an attempt to recover some power over what had happened, I assumed some responsibility. If I had somehow caused it, that would mean I was not a powerless victim. If I had the power to cause it once, surely I also have the power to cause it not to happen again? Then, if it does happen again, that must mean that I caused it to happen again? That makes me responsible for what happened.

Over the past few weeks, I've looked into the eyes of the boy I was, and I couldn't not but admit that he was   just a child. He was innocent. If my parents didn't love me, it wasn't because I was too flawed to be loved, it was because they were too flawed to love any child they had. Nothing that happened was my responsibility.

It wasn't my fault.

I don't think anyone would argue that this realisation is a massive step in the right direction, but it also leaves me in a very scary place. It leaves me living in a world where unspeakable evil happens to innocent children who did not do anything wrong - children whose only crime was being born to the wrong parents. It is a terrifying, bewildering world, where children cannot be protected and nothing can stop evil from happening.

It frightens me.

I'm not sure I want to live in this world. Part of me wants my guilt back...


  1. Survivor, I totally agree with you. Feeling guilty is a lot more comfortable than the pain of being victimized by someone you loved and trusted. Realizing that it will happen again, with another innocent child is so hard to accept. I understand this because I was sexually abused by my father.

    I've read that if a child is abused by their parent they may think, "I must be bad, or broken," because it is out of their realm of possibilities that their parents are bad or broken. For me, I still go back and forth with my thoughts thinking that my father was good/evil. And sometimes even wonder "is it me who's so broken that I made all of this up?"

    My therapist told me,"once you accept the fact you were the victim, you can move on to be the survivor."

    1. Thank you for sharing that. I've come to realise that the biggest mistake I made was trying to be a survivor without accepting that I was a victim first. In this journey, one can't skip steps.

  2. I should thank you. You stood up. You gave yourself a voice. And you've given me the courage to stand for myself.

    1. I'm glad to hear I contributed, in some small way, to your healing. :)


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