Relational Sanity Pt 5: Do we have the right to condemn ourselves for the sins of an abuser?

Warning:  This post might be very disturbing as it entails the fallout of child sexual abuse.  I have tried to be as sensitive as possible.

.

It’s been over 20 years now and I wasn’t even a believer but people were already confiding their darkest struggles to me.  I can see her face, although I can’t remember her name.  Her pain and shame was so intense that I am surprised she was even able to tell me.

.

“I remember the look on his face and I should have known that something was wrong, that he was a pervert.”

.

I felt my mouth open a little bit as my jaw dropped.  This was the first time I had seen anyone do this — blame oneself for being victimized, but I have seen it countless times in the years that passed.  She had just related to me how the teenage male babysitter was having her perform oral sex on him.  She was about 5 years old, and in the 1970’s 5 years-olds knew nothing about sex.  It wasn’t on tv and it was barely in the movies, her parents didn’t have porn in the home, she was unexposed and innocent — and back then no one taught us about good touch/bad touch.  We were easy prey in those days, but the predators were not as bold either.

.

“Why do you think you should have recognized that look?”

.

“You know what it looks like when a man is enjoying himself sexually – how could I have missed it?”

.

“But how does a 5 year old know that look?  Did you have any reason to recognize it at that point?”

.

It was time for her jaw to drop, “No, I guess not.”

.

One of the biggest problems with child sex abuse is when the child looks back on it as an adult through adult eyes.

.

“I should have known…”

“I should have seen…”

“I should have recognized the signs…”

.

To which I always respond, “Know what?  Something that you were never taught?  See what?  Things that you have no context to understand?  What signs? Signs you were never instructed to look for?”

.

It is not only true for sexual abuse, but all forms of child abuse.  The adult looks back with the “should haves” that are completely unreasonable, totally illogical, and utterly unmerciful.  They are filtering the abuse through what they know now, and what they are capable of now.  To view the abuse through a position of strength and knowledge is easier on the mind than acknowledging themselves as a little, defenseless, innocent child.

.

I generally ask the person, if a person of that age (whatever age they are condemning themselves at) came up to them sobbing and told them it happened to them, would they treat the child the way they are treating themselves?  In this case:

.

“If a 5 year old came to you and told you what you just told me, would it even remotely occur to you to tell them that they should have seen the look in his eyes as dangerous?”

.

“Oh my gosh no, of course not, that would be inhuman!”

.

“And yet you have no problem with assaulting yourself as a five year old.  Why is that?”

.

And then the truth comes out –

*sobbing* “Because someone has to be responsible, someone has to take the blame, someone has to feel bad about what happened to me.  And I let my little brother watch while it happened.”

.

“I am sorry your little brother saw that — but who really made that decision to hurt him?  Was it you?  Remember, you had no way of knowing that it was wrong, so why would it occur to you that he shouldn’t watch?”

.

“I never thought of that.”

.

“I know, you have been so hurt that there was no way to think clearly about something like this, how could you even try?  Who knew about sexual pleasure, you or the babysitter?”

“He did”

.

“And who knew that what he was doing was wrong?  After all, he waited until he was babysitting and never tried it with your parents at home.”

“He did.”

.

“Who had authority in this situation?  And how did our parents, back in the 70’s, tell us to behave when the babysitter came over?”

“He did, and they told us to be good for the babysitter.”

.

“That’s right.  They did, and you had no capacity to know why you shouldn’t do it, he presented it as a silly game.  There was no reason for you to suspect otherwise.  You weren’t stupid, or gullible, or naive, or deserving — you were simply a five year old with a five year old mind and a five year old innocence that was entirely appropriate.  Someone took advantage of the natural, normal condition of being 5 years old.  He counted on you being five years old because he knew you would be defenseless. To blame yourself is like a blind person blaming themselves if someone trips them.  It isn’t fair, and when you do it you are lying about yourself and making yourself pay for the crimes of someone else.  I wish your parents had pressed charges and I am sorry that they didn’t.  I wish there was justice for you, but justice can’t be served if you have locked yourself into prison to pay for someone else’s crimes.  I want you to declare that precious, beautiful five year old child innocent on all counts, because that is the truth.”

.

************

So all that being said, are you punishing yourself for the sins committed against you?  Are you judging yourself harshly because you need someone to pay the price for what was done to you?  Can you absolve yourself of the things that were done to you, and not by you?  Just as important as acknowledging our own sins is learning to refuse responsibility for the sins of others.  Sometimes it is hard to know the difference, and the people who hurt others often work diligently to blame what they have done on the victim, but we have to learn to look at the reality of the situation.  If it was someone else, would we treat them as inhumanely as we treat ourselves?  True honesty and compassion in judgment has to apply to ourselves as well as others.  No one should pay the price for someone else’s crimes for the rest of their life, especially when they were the victim in the first place.

 

image_pdfimage_print

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *