Childhood sexual abuse, often called "molestation", is much more common than most people would like to believe. Statistics indicate that one in three girls and one in five boys will have some form of sexual contact with an adult before they reach age 18. Other forms of childhood sexual abuse, like sibling sexual abuse or peer-on-peer sexual abuse, don't come with reliable statistics. Yet these forms of sexual abuse are more widespread than most would suspect too.
Sexual abuse occurs in all kinds of circumstances. It may involve explicit force, a perpetrator bullying their victim into "consent", or relying on the victim's innocence and lack of knowledge to perpetrate crimes.
All these situations have one thing in common: the abuse was not the victim's fault. Sexual abuse is NEVER a victim's fault. Let's take a look at the following situations to illustrate that point clearly:
- Stranger rape. Not the victim's fault.
- Date rape. Not the victim's fault.
- Partner rape. Not the victim's fault.
- Child rape or other sexual abuse in which the victim initially consented. Not the victim's fault.
- Child sexual abuse that continued because the victim thought they owed it to the perp. Not the victim's fault.
- Abuse is all the victim ever knew from a young age. They had no clue how to stop it. Not the victim's fault.
This does not describe all possible sexual abuse scenarios by any means, but the gist should be crystal clear: sexual abuse is never the victim's fault. (It really cannot be said often enough!) It isn't the victim's fault if they were drunk, if they consented because they didn't know what they were doing, if they consented because of threats, or if they struggled but were weaker than the perp.
Often, letting the message that child sexual abuse was not the victim's fault really sink in is one of the most challenging parts of the healing process.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse can certainly benefit from exploring this topic in detail in therapy. You'll want a therapist who has worked with victims of childhood sexual abuse before, and you'll want to make sure that pressure to forgive the perpetrator or perpetrators is not part of the therapist's approach to healing from abuse.
You may want to check out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Rogerian therapy, Janov's Primal Therapy, and counselors who support Allice Miller's work. Therapy should be focused on allowing the victim (survivor) to give their past a place in their present, by analyzing what happened and how they felt at the time.
In most cases, breakthroughs in which the victim starts to let go of the harmful idea that they had a part to play in causing the sexual abuse can come quite quickly. This can be incredibly liberating.
Joining survivor message boards to talk about your experiences can also be extremely healing. Sometimes, being able to be open about what happened to you and to be believed by others is enough to make a very real improvement to your mental health.
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