Abuse has many faces: sexual, verbal, physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual; and all too often, an individual experiences not just one, but many of these concurrently. It is an invasion upon your sanctity, upon your right as a human being, upon your right to have your basic needs in life met. Moving forward from abuse requires courage, support, and fortitude. Perhaps you are moving beyond the abuse because it was discovered or you broke free from its reign. Regardless of the scenario, the courage to heal from abuse is as unique a journey as you are an individual.As an intellectual, you understand that abuse of any form is wrong, illegal and punishable. With this in mind my question to you, is do you believe that what happened was your fault?
As you have come to accept that abuse should not be a secret, you have embarked upon the healing process, coming out of the shadows, standing up and re-claiming yourself. It is a journey like no other. It is long, full of effort, and can be very painful. The importance of not only understanding that abuse is not your fault, but also believing this, is vital to your recovery. This is the piece of the puzzle that will aid your self- forgiveness. Take a moment to reflect upon that statement. How do you view yourself in direct relation to the abuse? Do you catch yourself placing blame on your actions? It is okay if you have those thoughts because once you identify them, your recovery becomes about you so that you can continue to break the silence, bring awareness and essentially break the cycle of abuse in your world.
Why Abuse is Not Your Fault
Abuse is not your fault because a more powerful person took advantage of your vulnerabilities. This abuser may have told you repeatedly that it is your fault. So much so, that you began to second guess your instinct until you eventually believed it to be truth. Then there is the media and society reinforcing this idea, when it is suggested there could have been something that you do differently to prevent the abuse. Perhaps you created the illusion that it is easier to accept blame then to face the situation for what it is because of things you feel you should have done that you didn’t. For example, stand up for yourself, tell when it first occurred or ask for help. The abused often say that there is a perceived sense of closeness. Even if all of this applied to you, it is not your fault. An abuser was controlling you down to your core thoughts, making it difficult if not impossible (such as for a child) to see the reality of the situation. It is not your fault because you did not do anything that warrants abuse; it cannot be justified. I do not know a single individual who sought out to be abused, intentionally or otherwise. Our basic instinct is survival and abuse contradicts this so much that in order to survive it creates another illusion whereas it is not feasible to get help.
What really happened during abuse?
Emotional manipulation establishes and reinforces a lack of boundaries. An abuser emotionally manipulates you. Emotional manipulation occurs for all the faces of abuse. The abuser uses coercion, deception and even threats. They come across as caring, hurting, defending or even vulnerable themselves. This occurs before, during and after abuse. They seduce, intimidate, shame, negate or minimize their actions. They have a need for control. They will play upon your vulnerabilities. Types of vulnerabilities include but are not limited to immaturity, being too trusting or being a people pleaser, low self esteem and lack of assertiveness. This keeps on until the boundary you did have becomes so blurred you can no longer protect yourself. It is psychological warfare.
Unraveling The Mentality of Abuse
Laura Davis, co-author of “The Courage to Heal” created this exercise titled, “Letter to an abused child”. It is a helpful exercise that aids the removal of blame and enhances the belief that it is not your fault.
What you need: A pen, an alarm, 20 minutes, writing tablet, and a quiet space.
Rules: Stream of consciousness writing. Write without stopping for 20 minutes. Do not worry about grammar or punctuation; do not re-read or censor; do not erase or cross-out or change any word you put on paper. If you run out of things to say, keep writing whatever pops into your mind until the timer sounds off.
Scenario: Imagine a child. Give this child a name and age. Visualize this child. This child is being abused. Write a letter to the child, explaining why the abuser is at fault. Tell the child not to self blame. Let the child know that he/she is innocent. You are the one link the child has to hope and self-love. You are the life line.
Set your timer for 20 minutes and write.
What to do after the exercise? Take a few moments to be with your thoughts and emotions, remembering that like a wave they come in and they go out. When you are ready, read your letter and reflect upon what you wrote.
Next Steps: Attend therapy. Individual, group and psycho-educational services that specialize in trauma can greatly aid your journey of healing. You are worth it.