Survivors of sexual abuse try to make sense of why abuse has happened to them. It is very common for a survivor to conclude that they are responsible for the abuse. I too decided early in my childhood that I must have been bad, that there was something wrong with me, which was why bad things happened to me. It was particularly tough that my first abuser was my father, one of my primary care-givers and someone who I should have been able to trust. It was impossible to believe that he was at fault, so it had to be me.
It’s taken me a lot of counselling, where therapists have dripped into my mind that I was not to blame, to begin to see that I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and that the responsibility for all of the abuse lies completely with the abusers.
There were a couple of “Oh, I see now”, moments for me too. In 2017, I saw the results of a world-wide survey of some 2000 men reported in the i newspaper. It said that nearly half of them would be happy to use a doll for sex. This shocked me deeply but it did give me a different perspective on the notion that I had been seen by my abusers not as a person, but as an object. That really helped me to shift the blame and the responsibility from me to them.
The second moment was when my therapist in 2019 gave me a copy of the Finkelhor model, which I’ve included in the Resources section. In summary, Finkelhor’s research led him to conclude that there are four things which must happen for abuse to occur. The first three: having a desire to abuse, overcoming thoughts that abusing is wrong and creating an opportunity for getting the child alone all happen before there is even a child on the scene. It’s only when the first three steps have been taken by the abuser that the child appears, whose resistance must be overcome for the abuse to take place.
The Finkelhor model showed me that, in a way, I was incidental to the abuse. I could have been any child who was available to the person who wanted to abuse, got over their thoughts that abuse is wrong, and manipulated me into a situation where abuse could take place. It was nothing to do with me as a person, I was merely the object they were using for their own ends.
As an adult, I can now show my little me s that they were not bad, nor wrong in any way. They are innocent, as am I. We were simply unlucky. Realising that has been part of me being able to move on and to know that I am more than what happened to me.