“Why didn’t you report him sooner???” and double standards
I was sexually abused by my drug-addicted biological parents from the time I was born until I was 5. This resulted in PTSD which is still present today in my 20s. I was taken from their home and adopted shortly after. What happened to me was publicized and, of course, no one blamed me. When I open up and tell people about what my birth parents did to me, people express nothing but pity and sympathy. Clearly it wasn't my fault, they say. They're undeniably evil people.
But unfortunately my adoptive parents turned out to be abusive as well. My adoptive father sexually abused me during my late teenage years. I didn't tell anyone until I turned 20, after drunkenly admitting it to my boyfriend and best friend. Immediately after the truth came out, many of my family members stopped speaking to me, and I was blamed for "ruining my family" as a result of his arrest. The number of times I've been asked why it took me so long to open up is astounding to me. I've even had it suggested to me that, because I've been openly gay since age 15, it couldn't have been "that bad." And my dad was considered a good guy by everyone who knew him, so it was "hard to believe."
I've felt guilty about that for the past 4 years. I still do. Why is there a double standard based on my age? Why is my lack of consent "questionable" because I was an older teenager? Teenage boys are supposed to be strong and assertive, they say. This part of my story was NOT publicized due to my father's position of power. Justice took a while to happen. It was devastating, and I dropped out of college because I was too emotionally unstable.
The thing is, though, I've been shamed over and over by people who honestly don't know any better. Victim-blaming is so ingrained into our minds and our society that it's almost impossible not to internalize. The only thing that makes me feel better is that eventually law enforcement did its job, and my abusers are no longer in my life or able to hurt anyone else. But it makes my heart hurt that many other survivors can't say the same.
I'm so embarrassed to post this. I feel guilty and vulnerable. But I think it's important. Victim-blaming takes different forms, especially for male vs. female victims. I've never been told that I was dressed "provocatively" or that I should avoid alcohol and/or walking alone at night. But ultimately, victim-blaming sends the same message to all of us. It's damaging and needs to be talked about, even if being honest about what happened scares the crap out of me.
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