It Wasn’t Your Fault: Sexual Abuse And Forgiveness
Today we’ll be talking about forgiveness. If you missed last week’s post, read it here.
As we continue with this series, I want to preface a few things.
This whole series is meant to be about healing, not about my personal story. So while I will reference things that happened, I will not be going into detail, and I will not be naming names. There’s simply no need to do so. All of my issues have been addressed in the past, and they can stay there.
I will talk about some of the resulting hardships that I had to work through. If something arises that is a trigger for you, protect your state of being and do what you need to do. If that means you need to stop reading, that’s okay. Just keep in mind that all of these points are shared in the scope of finding a road to overcoming the past, so that such triggers will not always be so potent.
All that being said, I want to dive into today’s topic, which is correctly assigning blame, and understanding that it was not your fault.
In our last post we talked a little about victim shaming. This is what we often hear when a story comes to light, and people speculate that the victim must have somehow brought the attack on themselves.
The real danger with this speculation is that us as victims already believe we are to blame. I think most of us play back in our heads all the things that happened, trying to figure out if we could have done something differently. I’ve asked myself a million times if I could have stopped it.
Even now, looking back, I just know I couldn’t have. Not only was I coerced, but I was manipulated. In my case, it wasn’t a one time attack, it was an ongoing abuse, and I was convinced to keep my mouth shut. Even though I knew it felt wrong, I felt powerless.
I would add that I was very young and naive, but I believe people can be manipulated at any age if the right pressure points are hit. Does that make it my fault?
Manipulated submission is different than an accepted invitation.
It’s Not Your Fault
The single most important thing for you to understand, is that you are not to blame for what happened to you.
Someone made a choice, a choice that took away your choice, and it was not fair. It wasn’t fair to you, but it happened. And yes, you have to deal with the consequences of a choice that wasn’t yours, and it’s terrible.
You’re allowed to feel taken advantage of, because you were.
You’re allowed to feel angry, and confused, and dirty, and helpless, and upset, and hurt, for a time.
Every feeling is valid, but that doesn’t make it something to hold on to. Feel it, but don’t bottle it up and save it. Feel it, and then let it go.
Recognize that someone made you feel this way, and it’s not your fault.
This is important to your healing. In order to ever move on, you need to assign blame correctly.
This wasn’t an unfortunate incident brought on by forces beyond control, like the wind blowing a tree into a house.
This was the direct and intended result of someone’s premeditated decision. It was a crime. And when someone commits a crime, they deserve to take the blame.
You can and should blame them.
Not yourself. Not your circumstances. Blame the person who is actually responsible.
Once all of those things have been sorted out, there is a vital step you have to take in order to remove yourself from the pain. You have to forgive. First, forgive yourself for the wrongful accusation against yourself. Forgive yourself for thinking any less of yourself.
Then, in your own time, as much as you can allow, forgive the attacker.
Recognize what happened, recognize that this person made a choice that was very wrong, and choose to forgive this person anyway.
You’re not saying, “it’s okay”, because it’s not okay.
You’re saying, “I forgive you.”
And with those words, you let go of any guilt that you have harbored.
Not only do you allow the attacker to choose a better path, if and when they are ever ready to do so, but you allow yourself to let go. You let the burden fall from your shoulders.
I’m not saying you ever have to face your attacker again. You don’t need to go out of your way to make sure they know about your forgiveness, but you need to carry it in your heart, for you.
The Scientific Reasoning Behind Forgiveness
Mayo Clinic published an article about The Healing Power of Forgiveness.
In the article, Susan McDonanld-Conroy explains that when we hang on to the hurt of the past, our bodies release more stress hormones, keeping us in a state of anxiety while our bodies go into overdrive.
Forgiveness is not only emotionally healing, but physically healthy and necessary.
Resentment can eat us alive, creating a torturous existence that could largely be avoided and substituted with a full and satisfying life.
In the end, the choice we’re left with is to either forgive and move on, or not.
Someone hurt you once, and it was their fault, but that time is over now. The culprit for any new pain tied to that past event is you. You have the power to forgive and grant yourself relief.
Atoning Power of Forgiveness
I can’t speak on this topic without touching on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
You reading this may not be Christian, and that’s okay, I just hope you’ll briefly hear me out.
I know that I have needed to draw on the strength of my Savior to be able to fully forgive. Jesus Christ suffered all pains, He suffered for me and He suffered for you. He knows you and He knows what you need. He can enlarge your capacities and enable you to do more than you ever thought you could. I know I wouldn’t be where I am without the help of the Master Healer.