Childhood Abuse and Self-Blame Oct 7, 2022 8:04:47 GMT -8
Post by Morgan on Oct 7, 2022 8:04:47 GMT -8
Childhood Abuse and Self-Blame
Self-doubt and self-blame consume many who were victims of childhood abuse. Experiencing childhood trauma leaves the child and later the adult suffering from a lack of self-esteem plus a load of guilt and shame.
In this article, we shall explore how survivors blame themselves for what happened to them and a few suggestions to overcome the shame that inhibits them.
Blaming the Victim for the Crime
In our society today, and in many years past, it hasn’t been unusual for the victim of a crime not to be believed or even blamed for what happened to them. One example might be when a woman is raped; the insult is that people question how she was dressed or where she was when the crime took place. Some blame the woman for not being dressed correctly or that she shouldn’t have made herself available for the man to harm her. Never mind that it is a dire crime to rape someone.
While society, for the most part, does not excuse child abuse, it does belittle the horrific experiences of those who lived through it by stating the victim should move on and forget what happened to them.
It is easy to see how survivors can feel they aren’t enough and blame themselves for what happened to them when they were victims of the most heinous crimes one human can perpetrate against another.
It is crucial to keep in mind that children are helpless to defend themselves against a perpetrating adult, especially one for whom they are reliant for their lives. It is no wonder some of these children develop dissociative identity disorder in an attempt to escape.
Why Do Childhood Victims Become the Villains?
One reason survivors who are victims of child abuse become villainized is because society cannot handle the thought of children receiving the types of maltreatment they do. This is especially true if the perpetrator is a woman harming her children. We prefer, as a society, to see mothers as wonderful and put them on a pedestal.
The second reason victims of this type of domestic abuse hale from the fact that many survivors feel they should have been able to stop the abuse. This is especially true of male survivors.
For society, childhood symbolizes our fears about the present with all our hope and dread for the future. When children become victims of crime, it shakes the foundations of whom we think we are as a people. Child abuse raises the ugly specter that not all adults will control their animal instincts and instead see children as their fodder.
Society also sees child abuse as a highlight of the failure of adult control in other ways and outlines an underlying sickness in us. Suddenly our pleasant calming thoughts about humanity are overthrown by the ugliness that is childhood trauma.
It is no wonder that society prefers to see childhood victims as the villains in the collective story.
Why Do Survivors Blame Themselves for the Trauma?
Many survivors rationalize that if they had only taken an alternative course of action, they would not have been abused, raped, and tortured.
Some find themselves asking:
“If only I’d fought harder.”
“If I had told on him sooner, he would have stopped earlier.”
“If I hadn’t dressed like that, they wouldn’t have used me.”
Of course, such rationalizations are false as you were a child and could not fight back and did not know what to do to make it stop. All you could do was dissociate away.
Nothing would have changed if you fought back or had the advantage of understanding you should tell on your abuser or have dressed differently. You would still be a survivor of atrocities that no child should ever live through.
As children, survivors were not allowed to express how they felt: hurt, enraged, betrayed, angry, and abandoned. Instead, they are taught that there will not be any rescuers and that they are alone in their misery, so they internalize their feelings.
Understanding Blame as a Self-Response
Blaming yourself is a typical response to surviving a traumatic experience, especially when the traumatic event is not your fault. You did not ask for it and condone the abuse, yet blaming yourself runs deep.
It is critical to understand why you hold yourself accountable to control or overrule the self-blame response.
Children aren’t capable of seeing their adults as perpetrators. Developmentally, children do not possess the ability to perceive their caregivers as evil or abusive. Children understand they don’t like what is happening to them and feel the pain of abandonment and the physical pain they might be enduring, but they are blinded to the fact that their adults are choosing to harm them. The reason for this blindness is that it is a survival instinct, as children are completely reliant on their adults to meet all their needs. Because children cannot blame their caregivers for what they are going through, they turn that blame inward.
Children need to feel they control something. Blaming the caregiver for the child’s abuse undercuts their belief that their perpetrators will provide for them. By blaming themselves, they maintain the internal belief that they somehow control what is happening even though they do not. The internal message of self-blame manifests later in life as feelings of not being lovable or good enough.
As the abuse unfolds, children are hardwired to respond quickly on an unconscious level. Children’s nervous systems are constantly scanning their environment for potential danger. Their fight/flight/freeze/fawn response is activated when they perceive danger. Because this process is on an unconscious level, survivors are left thinking that they should have done something to save themselves, leaving them full of self-blame.
Of course, every person’s experiences vary and are more complex than can be spoken of here.
Ending Our Time Together
While it is a common thread among survivors to blame themselves for what happened to them as children, it need not be so. There are some vital things to remember.
• The abuser wanted to abuse
• The abuser did not overcome their need to abuse
• The abuser created an environment where they could abuse
• The abuser should have chosen not to abuse
• The abuser used you to feel powerful
• The abuser did not consider your safety
• The abuser knew precisely how to groom you so they could abuse
Remembering these truths is critical to defeating self-blame and returning the power your perpetrator took from you so long ago.
You are not responsible for what happened to you. Not then and not now. Period.