What do I blame myself for? (Content Note – child sexual abuse)
My father abused me and, as far as I know two of my friends, one when we were 8 and another when we were 10. He may have abused other friends but the reason I know about these two friends is that I was there when the abuse was happening.
It took me many years to stop blaming myself for this. Especially D when we were eight because it was me that suggested we go into bed with my father. I have no idea why I did this and I suspect the reasons are complex and tangled.
The other friend G told me what my father had done to her the first time and then I saw them together many times after that. Her father was posted to Gibraltar very soon after she told another friend’s parents what my father had done to her.
Nothing else was done other than that – nothing. I have no idea whether anything was said to my father – whether he was even reprimanded for what he had done.
All I know is life went on and the violence increased in our house. The sexual, physical and emotional abuse of my mother and me and the physical and emotional abuse of my two little brothers.
Nothing I did could stop this daily violence. Nothing my mother did could stop him although she tried to protect us by putting herself between him and us, but this meant she took many assaults. My mother and I used to apologise to each other for not being able to protect the other from the abuse. We both carried with us terrible guilt for many years.
The guilt I felt about my friends and my mother and brothers was deep and terrible. I felt I had made it all happen. I believed for many years that my behaviour had made my father abuse me and that because I went back again and again that somehow I was giving permission to do what he did to me. Because I had brought my friends into our house I had made him abuse them too.
When G told all my friends at school what he had done the shame and embarrassment I felt was overwhelming. When my friend D was killed when she was 12 I added this to my slag heap of guilt. I felt I hadn’t protected my mother enough and I had added to her abuse. I believed I should have been able to protect my brothers more but had failed to, and when one of my beloved brothers died 11 years ago at 47 of alcoholism I blamed myself for not looking after him enough.
My father abused us all but it is only in the last few years that I have been able to take some of this terrible guilt out of my head and heart and forgive myself a little. I have no idea where my friend G is. I have tried to find her to say sorry and to ask her how she is now but I haven’t been able to.
Growing up believing me, G and D were the only ones this had happened to and only having words like ‘interfering with’ or ‘incest’ or ‘doing things to’ to inadequately describe what happened, was hard and unbearable.
Through my teens, twenties and thirties I would resort to screaming and raging and getting so drunk I was uncontrollable in my anger. Things are different now. I can talk about it and have had such good support I am healing slowly.
But I would say this, never never underestimate the pain of the guilt carried by many of us, some of it so bad that some have not survived or we live with harming ourselves.
I know some of my guilt will stay with me especially to do with my own children and my brother but I am gradually learning that all that happened wasn’t my fault. I didn’t cause, want, ask for or make any of it to happen.
These are the words I say to myself – it wasn’t my fault no matter what I think I did to encourage it – I was a child. I was shaped by him and taught by him to see me through his eyes. It’s taking a lifetime to see me through my eyes and to be in control of my own life.
Let’s help create societies where children are loved, cherished and nurtured.
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