In a very helpful newsletter, Cecil Murphey of Shattering the Silence stated that the following statements irritate him:
“You don’t need to feel guilty.”
“You have no reason to feel ashamed.”
I agree. I get both statements said to me often and they irritate me, too. These people mean well, mostly; at least the ones who aren’t saying it in a “man up, get over it” way.
I think what they are trying to say is, “It wasn’t your fault.” But saying it the way they do comes across to me like a glib attempt to “tell me how to feel” and it doesn’t help at all. It certainly doesn’t make the guilt and shame magically go away. I suppose it’s ignorance of how to help on their part, so I try to educate.
Cecil Murphey suggested (linked above) that saying, “I’m sorry you’re hurting” is better, and I agree. He explained that as children, we didn’t know we were not to blame. So we naturally blamed ourselves as children do, and guilt and shame gained a foothold.
Most of us were told we were to blame by our abusers, often people we trusted, and maybe even loved. Then guilt and shame took root – during the delicate formative years. We don’t choose to feel guilt and shame, and we can’t “decide” to stop feeling that. Does it make sense to say to a child with a broken arm, “You don’t need to have a broken arm”? It won’t be fixed because you said that. They need a cast and they have to go through the mending and healing and not try to climb trees until the healing is done.
Sometimes I realize that survivors need to educate people on how to help, and I try to; but most times I’m too busy trying to deal and heal to worry about it. I often wonder, “Why does the burden to educate and inform the public so often fall on the shoulders of the survivors who, quite frankly, have enough on their plate?”
It seems survivors are also the majority of people teaching others how to keep their children safe from predators. At times, the willingness of parents to put fingers in their ears and say, “It can’t happen to my kid” makes me very upset. Self-care is vital in this jungle.
Then the language of the education can also be problematic. Most prevention advocacy talks of “parents, watch out for these signs of predatory abusers” but rarely do they mention that parents can often be the predatory abusers of their own children. For a survivor of incest abuse, it is very hard to read that stuff.
The important part, to me, is trying to learn better how to help and prevent, and to move forward in eliminating child abuse, rape, and all other forms of crimes against children.
Most survivors want to help with this, it often helps us to help others; but we do have a lot on our plates just to keep breathing and heal. It would be wonderful to see more people, especially those who are not survivors themselves, helping to end, and prevent, child abuse.
I know it’s frightening and unpleasant to think about an abuser harming your child or kids you know. It’s far more horrible to become an abused child. Which is worse? (Trust me, being abused is worse.) Learning about it to prevent it is far better than doing nothing out of squeamishness only to find out your child was abused. Damage from abuse (especially of children) can last a lifetime and affect every aspect of the child’s life. “It can’t/doesn’t happen in my town” doesn’t and can’t help the children at risk in your town.
Isn’t prevention worth more than scrambling after a non-existent cure? Isn’t prevention and the safety of children worth some discomfort? I’d sincerely like to know; but too many people have their fingers in their ears and can’t hear the question – or the cries of abused children.
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© W.R.R. 12/11/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.
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