In my counseling office, I have worked with men and women who have been sexually abused and though there are differences in how victims are impacted they often experience some of the same emotions. Many people often feel shame and guilt. There is a tendency to blame themselves, and to think that maybe they did something to cause this to happen as if maybe they deserved it.
I remember a time I was visiting a jail. It was dinner time and about 25 males who were incarcerated due to aggressive or abusive crimes were a room. I walked in and every male in the room turned to look at me. A couple of them began to make severely crude and inappropriate comments and gestures. I can’t describe the feeling that overcame me. In fact the only way to fully understand would be to be there in the midst of it. I instantly felt uncomfortable and turned to look at what I was wearing. My first thought was “am I wearing something tight or revealing?” Not at all. I was wearing my typical outfit choice for these types of visits, an oversized shirt and baggy pants. What stood out to me from this experience was that my first reaction was to turn my attention inward to see if I had done something to provoke this. I was standing among males who had histories of abusive behaviors, and I thought for a second that their behaviors could be my issue. Why do we do this? I give this example only to illustrate how even when everything points to it being their issue, I took it on as mine. One thing that all victims of sexual assault or sexual misconduct must be reminded of is that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Do not take ownership of something that is not yours.
Absolutely take ownership of your healing, take ownerships of your feelings and beliefs about the situation, but never ever take ownership of someone else’s choice to violate your rights. If this is something you struggle with please do not hesitate to fight for your healing. If you could use help figuring out how to heal from abusive situations, give us a call.
-Lorianna Joos, MS, LMHC