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...