Letter to Survivors:
Don't Take the Blame for Being Abused
Drugs & Alcohol
Kids & Parents
Relationships Shopping Corner
If you have been abused, it is not your fault. That seems to be the hardest thing for survivors to accept in early recovery. You accept it intellectually, may even say you accept it, but often your heart you may still bear the burden of blame. That's because you've been brainwashed by perpetrators who are expert at making the victim feel responsible, and even deluding some into thinking they are participating voluntarily. Thus, children and vulnerable adults believe they are co-conspirators. Abusive people cloud the victim’s thinking, often convincing the victim that no one would believe their story. Remember, sexual and physical abuse is about power and control. It is all in the hands of the perpetrator.
If you still suffer from fear, humiliation and place responsibility on yourself, the abuser still retains some power in your life. It is important you begin to work toward acknowledging, then letting go of this past pain. This often takes professional help because of your vulnerability at the time the abuse occured.
For example, abuse can begin before a child can talk. Think
about how that child may have felt, then consider what resources the child
had to either express himself or gain protection. Consider the 10-year-old
who gets abused. What options does the child have? In order to decrease the
onging impact of that abuse into adulthood, you have to honor and increase
your empathy for yourself at the time the abuse occured. Also give credence
to the changes in your beliefs about yourself and the world that started at
that time, and how they consequently effected your choices in life. With knowledge
and tools, you can stop it from continuing to interfere with your life.
I have heard many heartbreaking stories where victims told people who should have then protected them,
but that did not happen. Have faith. There are people who do believe. Your responsibility at this point is to utilize your inner strength and continue to break the silence. You know the truth.
Left unrecognized and untreated, abuse can dramatically effect one’s life. Although many survivors believe they have “dealt with it and gone on,” the turmoil of feelings remain inside. These can result in a pattern of negative relationships, repeated dissociation through use of alcohol or drugs, or compulsive behaviors. Many turn to use of food to alter these feelings. I included chapters in "Body Sense " to help face down the Cycle of Pain that often follows survivors. Until one connects the current pain with that in the past, it continues to smolder.
It is important you get help from a licensed mental health professional well qualified to treat trauma survivors. Choose one that takes trauma seriously, and recognizes the impact on your life. Visit with them. You will know if they touch your soul. If the therapist offers only surface cures, the therapist probably does not understand the depth of your pain and how to move you out of it – with longtime results. Find someone who does.
Gathering information is your first step. It helps break the old trauma bonds. You are capable of taking care of yourself. You are not keeping the secret anymore. You don’t have to in order to survive. The internet can be a good source of information. However, it should not replace face-to-face therapy with someone you trust and can turn to when needed. There are several good books on the market for survivors and their families. Be cautious when reading books. If you feel overwhelmed, give yourself permission to put them down. And, look for books that don’t just describe the trauma, but also give you prescriptive tools to move out of the pain. These can help you see that you are not alone. You are not crazy. There is lots of hope. However, you can get triggered into feelings flashbacks, as well. Look for books that also give you the tools to stop the flashbacks and decrease the continuing impact of past abuse.
Have faith, and do your work! You'll find peace, freedom and acceptance.
Brenda Crawford-Clark, LMHC, LMFT
Author: "Body Sense Balancing Your Weight and Emotions." "Body Sense" combines therapist-tested tools and techniques with compassionate stories of many who have survived trauma and loss. Look for "Body Sense" to provide a comprehensive handbook of information and insight.
Copyright Brenda Crawford-Clark