If you were sexually abused as a child, there are several steadfast things you believe. Friends, family, and therapists can all tell you that you were a victim. They can reassure you that you are still lovable and pure, but there are some things that become ingrained in your thinking -- and no amount of praise can dislodge the hate you end up feeling for yourself.
The list of things you blame yourself for is, in fact, most likely not true, but it doesn’t stop you from holding on to these "truths."
1. You could have done more to stop it.
It doesn’t matter the age the abuse started or when it ended, you will always feel like you should have taken more action to stop it. Even as a child, you should have ignored blatant (or subtle) threats to your safety or the well-being of your loved ones. You should have brushed aside physical assaults, and told your parents or a teacher. Of course, you were terrified or confused, but only guilty parties don’t come forward to report abuse.
2. Your body is damaged.
The abuse that occurred leads you to believe that whatever happened to you is visible to the whole world. You convince yourself that your skin must ooze shame, that your aura gives off a slightly disgusting perfume. Instead of realizing that you just feel gross on the inside, you tell yourself that your exterior must be just as dirty.
3. What you went through wasn’t that bad.
As someone who was sexually abused, you’re a pro at minimizing your pain. You don’t have cancer, you didn’t survive a horrific car crash. Heck, what happened to you is not nearly as terrible as what other people go through in life. You compare the hurt you feel to every sad story you hear -- and yours simply doesn’t measure up.
4. You should be over it.
Your abuse could have happened last week or 10 years ago. However much time has passed, you should be able to shrug it off and move on. You wonder why you still dwell on the past. It’s time to accept that it happened, and stop feeling sad about it.
5. You deserved it.
Sure, it’s the argument that defense attorneys use to win rape cases: "You asked for it." You shouldn’t have allowed yourself to be left alone with him, you should have resisted more, you should have kicked and screamed. Bottom line: You deserved everything you got.
The hope is that one day you learn to dispute every single one of these ideas. You learn that what happened to you wasn’t your fault, that there are bad people in this world, but you’re not one of them. Above all, you’re able to finally start listening to that small voice inside that rejects the notion that you don’t deserve to be happy. But in the meantime, at least you can take comfort in the fact that there are some common things that people who were molested believe -- even if they’re wrong.