We live in a culture where victim blaming is the norm. People wonder what the woman did to provoke her husband for beating her, & offer her no sympathy because she stays with him. Rape victims are blamed for being attacked. If she wasn’t wearing that short skirt or wasn’t drunk, it wouldn’t have happened, they say. Even many adults who were abused as children are not often believed, & sometimes even blamed. “If it was really so bad, why didn’t you tell someone?” “I really can’t see your mother (or father) doing that.” “I had it worse than you & I’m just fine.”
This leads to a tremendous amount of shame in victims. They can feel ashamed for being so “weak” as to be affected by what happened, or ashamed it happened at all. They blame themselves for being abused. They may feel terribly about themselves because so many others have had it worse than they did. They even may wonder if it really happened. (Not being believed really can lead to that much doubt!)
I’ve been through this myself, & still battle it sometimes (although thank God those times are fewer than they once were). I especially have trouble with beating myself up for being so weak as to be so damaged from the abuse I endured growing up. Not healthy & really not wise!
If this describes you too, Dear Reader, please know that you have no reason to be ashamed! Abusers are the ones who should be ashamed, not their victims! Just because you were abused doesn’t mean you have done something wrong. What it means is there is something very wrong with the person who hurt you!
When you feel this way, I’ve found praying to be very helpful. Telling God just how I feel helps a lot. Keeping things secret, I think, gives them power. but bringing things into the open releases their hold on you. Talking about them helps you in that way, especially talking about them with God, who loves you so much & can comfort you like no one else can.
Also, remembering some of the worst events helps too, believe it or not. It puts the abuse in perspective & reminds you that yes, it really was bad! It also reminds you that you didn’t, couldn’t, do anything to deserve what you went through. Write them out if you like- that way you can look back over them the next time you feel that shame creeping in. The anger over what happened can be helpful. While I have forgiven my mother for abusing me, I am still angry over the unfairness of it all, & the damage caused by it. That anger helps me when the shame starts to act up.
Always remind yourself- the blame & shame for you being abused belongs square on the abuser, not on you. Remind yourself that it is not yours to carry. If visuals help you, imagine yourself carrying this large, ugly sack. Then, see yourself handing it over to the person who abused you & walking away, leaving them to hold this sack.