I'm a survivor of child abuse. I write about it in my novels and occasionally on this blog. Over the years, a fair number of folks have contacted me with their own stories of abuse and rape. Our culture teaches, in ways insidious and overt, all of these survivors lessons that are not true and that boil down to: it's your own fault. From those lessons, and from the abuse, we learn to tell ourselves a lot of lies. Here are five of the worst.
5. If only I had...
Nothing you were going to do was going to stop your abuser.
4. If only I were...
The abuse was never about who or what you are or were. It was always about the abusers.
3. It didn't happen to others, so it must be me.
Others didn't have to deal with the asshole(s) who abused or raped you.
2. I shouldn't have been there.
You shouldn't have been at home? You shouldn't have walked home from class? No. Where you were is not and was not the problem. The abuser was the problem.
And, the root lie, the one that plagues us all...
1. It was my fault.
It was not your fault.
Rape is not a victim problem; rape is a rapist--usually male--problem. Child abuse is not a victim problem; child abuse is an adult problem.
People who know me sometimes make it clear that they're more than a little tired of me writing and talking about this topic.
I'm sorry for them, but I'm not going to stop.
I have talked to victim after victim after victim, the vast majority of them women, who have suffered and are continuing to suffer and will suffer until they die with the consequences of being abused or raped or both. Most of these women are understandably afraid to tell their stories, because the first reaction of most listeners in their experience, time and again, is to ask, what did you do to cause this? That very question shuts up the victim and teaches her to live not only with the pain but also with a secret.
Think it doesn't happen? A few years ago, I told a friend--a very smart man, a good man, a man famous in several circles--the short form of my story. His first question was, why didn't you leave? I pointed out that I was ten years old, had just lost my father, and had a sister and brother to protect. I was supposed to go exactly where?
That sort of question is exactly what victims face all the time.
So, no, I'm not going to stop, not for as long as I have voice. It's not all I talk about, as any reader of my blog or my books knows, and it's not even a big chunk of what I talk about, but it's going to continue to be part of what I talk about. And I'm not going to stop.
I'm not going to stop because more of us need to speak for and stand with the victims of abuse, not shame and blame them.
I'm not going to stop because I don't care if you want to try to shame and blame me. Yeah, I fight the same demons as every other survivor, but I refuse to do so in secret. Come at me with your shaming and blaming, and I will fucking tear that shit from your throat and stomp all over it.
Only when we create safe spaces for all victims and when we acknowledge the real sources of the problems--the abusers, the rapists--will we begin to address this horror. Only then will all survivors feel safe to tell their stories.
Only then will I shut up about my own.