On my blog entry entitled Abused Children Don’t Have the Option of Saying No, a reader posted the following comment:
To be honest, posts like this invalidate me. My sexual abuse came from a boy who was, while bigger and stronger, only a year older. A lot of people whom I come out to don’t even consider it abuse. ~ Eri
Today I am going to address the victim of child-on-child abuse. Tomorrow, I will address those of you who abused other children as a child who now experience guilt and shame. I hope to provide you with healing while, at the same time, validate the experience of the victims of child-on-child abuse.
I vehemently disagree with the people who are telling Eri that a child cannot be abused by another child. I know adoptive parents who have parented foster children with a history of sexual abuse. These children sexually abused the younger children in the home. It does happen, and it is abuse. The victim of sexual abuse (or any other form of child abuse) experiences trauma from that experience whether the abuser is age 8 or 80. The victims of child-on-child abuse need therapy and to work through the healing process just as much as those of us who were abused by adult abusers.
To quote my therapist, let’s stay out of the abuser’s head. Whether the intention of the abuser was to inflict grievous harm or to understand the abuse inflicted upon himself does not change the experience of the victim. The victim is not privy to what is going on inside of the abuser’s head during the abuse. All the victim knows is that someone he trusted is now forcing him to do something that he does not want to do, and that act of abuse is causing deep emotional pain (and likely physical pain as well).
Children, by nature, are tattletales. If the experience was “normal” consensual child play (“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”), then the child would blab about it. That is simply the way a child’s mind works. A child is not developmentally ready to keep a secret unless that secret is forced upon him. If another child (whether older or younger) forced you to keep a secret as a child after forcing you to participate in any form of abuse, that child was your abuser. Period.
Don’t let anyone else invalidate your experience. Normal child play does not result in nightmares, flashbacks, eating disorders, panic attacks, substance abuse, self-injury, and the myriad of other aftereffects that are common among child abuse survivors. Your abuser does not have to be 18 years old to qualify as a child abuser.
Photo credit: Hekatekris