Dealing with guilt
Many victims of sexual abuse are deeply ashamed about what happened. They may even feel responsible for it. Consider Karen, now 19, who was sexually abused between the ages of 6 and 13. “The worst thing I deal with is the guilt,” she says. “I think to myself, ‘How could I have let the abuse go on for so long?’”
If you feel that way about your situation, consider the following:
Children are neither physically nor emotionally prepared to have sex. They do not know what such activity implies and are thus incapable of consenting to it in any meaningful way. This means that child abuse is not the child’s fault.
Children tend to trust adults and to be naive about the tactics of corrupt people, which can make a child vulnerable. “Molesters are very good ‘con men,’ and a child is no match for their clever manipulation,” says the book The Right to Innocence.
A child may experience sexual arousal while being abused. If that happened to you, be assured that this is the body’s automatic physical response to being touched in a certain way. It does not mean that you were capable of consenting to the abuse or that you bear any blame for it.
Suggestion: Think of a child you know who is now at the age you were when you were abused. Ask yourself, ‘Would it be fair to hold that child responsible if he or she were abused?’
Karen reasoned on that last point when she babysat three children, one of whom was almost six years old—the age Karen was when her abuse started. Karen says, “I realized just how vulnerable a child that age really is—how vulnerable I was at that age.”
Fact: The perpetrator bears responsibility for your abuse. The Bible says: “The wickedness of the wicked one will be accounted to [that person] alone.”—Ezekiel 18:20.
The value of confiding in someone
Talking to a trusted adult about the abuse can help you get relief. The Bible says: “A true friend shows love at all times, and is a brother who is born for times of distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.
Understandably, you might feel a measure of safety in not talking about what happened. Perhaps silence has become like a wall that you have built to protect yourself from further hurt. Consider, though, that the wall of silence that protects you from getting hurt might also prevent you from getting help.
A young woman named Janet found that talking about her abuse was a great relief for her. “I was molested at a very young age by someone I knew and trusted, and I held it in for years,” she says. “But once I was able to talk to my mom about it, it was as if a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders.”
Looking back, Janet can understand why some might be reluctant to speak up. “Abuse is such an uncomfortable topic,” she says. “But in my case, the hurt that came from living with it was not good. It was better for me to confront it sooner rather than later.”
“A time to heal”
Abuse may have left you with hurtful misconceptions about yourself—for example, that you are damaged and worthless or that you exist only for the sexual gratification of others. You now have the opportunity to recover from such lies, to benefit from “a time to heal.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3) What can help you in this endeavor?
Study of the Bible. The Bible contains God’s thoughts, which are “powerful . . . for overturning strongly entrenched things”—including false reasonings about your worth. (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5) For example, read and think about the following scriptures: Isaiah 41:10; Jeremiah 31:3; Malachi 3:16, 17; Luke 12:6, 7; 1 John 3:19, 20.
Prayer. When feelings of worthlessness or guilt overwhelm you, “throw your burden on Jehovah” in prayer. (Psalm 55:22) You are never alone!
Congregation elders. These Christian men are trained to be “like a hiding place from the wind, a place of concealment from the rainstorm.” (Isaiah 32:2) They can help you to gain a balanced view of yourself and to move on with your life.
Good association. Observe men and women who are exemplary in Christian living. Take note of how they treat one another. In time, you will come to realize that not all people use their influence to abuse those whom they claim to love.
A young woman named Tanya is learning that vital lesson. From early childhood, she was treated as a sexual object by a number of men. “The only men I was ever close to hurt me,” she says. In time, though, Tanya has come to realize that there are men who do show genuine love. How has she seen this?
As she associated with a husband and wife who were exemplary in Christian living, Tanya’s viewpoint changed. “I could see from the husband’s actions that not all men are abusive,” she says. “The husband protected his wife, and that is how God intended it to be.” a—Ephesians 5:28, 29.