1. It’s not the victim’s fault. Ever.
It doesn’t matter if it seemed like we wanted it. It’s not sex we wanted- it’s usually something deeper. Love, care, worth, acceptance… things that all humans want. We just didn’t know and trusted too easily by believing in the assumed “goodness” in people. Our abusers took advantage of our vulnerability.
2. It IS traumatic.
Many of us survivors are diagnosed with PTSD, yet due to the fact that we didn’t experience a “near death” situation in a war/car accident/violent encounter or witnessed someone go through something similar, we’re often shamed or judged and don’t feel worthy of the diagnosis. If people are telling us how stupid we were or what we could’ve done, we end up believing it’s not trauma because we could’ve done something about it. We could’ve controlled it. Therefore, someone didn’t “take advantage of us”. It wasn’t “abuse”. We shouldn’t have been “traumatized”. SO NOT TRUE. See next point.
3. Our abusers use(d) fear to control us.
Verbal and emotional manipulation, threats, empty promises, guilt-tripping, fake “care”, bribery, or just straight up force. Not all those said things necessarily happen to all victims, but its definitely possible to experience all of them. It leaves us feeling like if we don’t do what they want us to do, we’ll get hurt, be a selfish person, or shame/hurt the people around us that we care about (including the abuser). So although what they’re doing is scary, we get scared of the consequences that would follow if we don’t comply. We’re trapped in fear- it’s like picking the less scary option out of two incredibly scary situations. Or possibly even more.
4. We’re silenced. Very often.
It’s the fear. Not only does the fear trap us into getting hurt either way, but it also affects how we view ourselves. Our abusers told us lies about ourself, people in our communities don’t understand and sometimes shame us… if that’s what we’re surrounded by, how would we believe something different? That we don’t deserve to be treated that way, that it wasn’t our fault, that it was wrong. And let me add, sometimes we do have moments where we share but we sometimes just get pity or people feel bad… and then we feel bad so we kinda learn to not talk about it. The people around us don’t take it that well.
5. It takes time to heal.
We weren’t just hurt physically. Sexual abuse also consists of lies/manipulation/broken trust… all of those things affect our mental and emotional health. We unintentionally believe those lies. We feel scared and anxious. It affects us deeply to the soul… because we had our boundaries crossed in such an intimate and personal way. So no, we can’t heal over a few sessions of therapy… we’re changing a mindset that’s trying to protect us from getting severely hurt like when we were before. It’s not our fault sometimes we get “triggered”… our brains translate people/places/things similar to the ones involved in our trauma and tells us, “hey that feels familiar and you got hurt- be careful!!!”. Only time helps as we learn… those small triggers actually aren’t threats. We’re rewiring our brains.
Hope this helps to clarify a bit! Believing lies and manipulation really impact our mental health in a negative way. It messes with what we know. Preaching truths and just speaking honestly about our struggles with these thoughts is the first step to finding healing from these mental hurts and scars.