It’s not your fault. You were a child and someone chose to hurt you. Children cannot give consent. What they did was wrong and you suffered because of it. No matter what happened, it was not your fault.
The different feelings that come up as a result of being sexually abused can be disorienting and confusing, especially for children. Children often internalize the abuse, perceiving themselves as “bad” because they are not able to perceive the adults in any other way then “good.” Children are not neurodevelopmentally able to place the blame on adults because children are practically at the mercy of caregivers for love, protection, and survival. Sometimes, this means carrying an internal burden that no child should ever have to carry.
As adult survivors of child abuse, it can be difficult to reconcile our childhood perception of caregivers with the inner adult knowing that the adults who were supposed to protect you were at fault for what happened to you as a child. How could they do this? Or how could they drop the ball this badly?
Sure, people do the best they can at any given moment but sometimes their best is just not good enough and sometimes, it is inexcusable.
As adults, childhood sexual abuse can leave survivors feeling angry, betrayed, and unsafe in the world. Adult survivors of sexual abuse may struggle with intrusive memories, social anxiety, trust issues, and shame. Survivors may not feel at home in their own bodies because sexual abuse leaves emotional scars that others cannot see but that survivors can feel; the pain, shame, and self-blame can be debilitating, especially when there is no one who can see your value, your worth, and your innocence. It is even worse when you are not believed.
How can survivors recover from the trauma? How can survivors reclaim their power and sense of safety in the world?
Survivors have power over how they choose to perceive their trauma. Survivors have power over who, what, when, and how much they choose to allow others into their lives. Survivors have power over how they tell their stories. Survivors have the power to be heard. Survivors have power over how they choose to remember what has happened to them and it is in the realization and exercise of this power that survivors can find a true gateway to healing.
It is in the reclamation of your body, your story, and your boundaries that a sense of safety can re-emerge in safe and trusting relationships. Survivors can learn to identify safe and trusting relationships that give them a sense of empowerment.
When you are able to decide that this trauma is not going to define your relationship with your body, your relationship with your sense of self, or your relationships with others, you are able to decide that you are in control of your destiny and that allow a sense of control that can lead to a sense of safety in the world.