One of the toughest things for a sexual abuse survivor to do is to cope with the feelings of guilt and shame. These emotions are always resurfacing and must be dealt with as they arise. Both guilt and shame lead survivors to ask the following questions that will be discussed in detail.
Why didn’t I stop it?
It’s important to know that as a person is enduring a moment of sexual assault, they will experience one of three responses: flight, fight, or freeze. Many survivors have expressed that their response has been to remain still, and they freeze. And the truth is that when you’re amid a sexual assault, your brain, and your body undergo shock.
You cannot judge your reaction. When sexual abuse happens, trauma is inflicted, and trauma is overwhelming amounts of stress beyond a person’s capacity to handle all at once. Therefore, the body goes into shock mode and the brain as well.
I shouldn’t have trusted that person.
A survivor cannot blame themselves for trusting another individual. Because sexual abuse is the breach of trust, not only is it normal for a survivor to feel guilty not being able to trust their perpetrator, but they’ll also develop colossal trust issues with others in the long-term. A survivor should remove their sense of guilt and place it where the blame belongs; on the perpetrator.
I should’ve seen it coming.
After an act of sexual violence has been committed, it’s only normal for the survivor to replay the incident a thousand times in their head. They may ponder and wonder if they could have detected the warning signs. It’s useless to wonder about the warning signs of that incident. You must accept that what happened wasn’t violence committed by you, but instead, it was committed against you without warning. It’s not your fault.
Overall, to pursue a healing journey, the first statement and belief that must be engraved in the heart of any survivor is, “It was not your fault.” All survivors must give total responsibility for the abuse to the perpetrator. It’s forming this belief that a survivor can then move forward toward forgiveness, developing new coping mechanisms, and practical faith.