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Archive for February 22nd, 2008

Seaside shelter (c) Lynda BernhardtOne of the most frequently asked questions by child abuse survivors is “Why me?” What was it about me that made other people want to harm me? Am I fundamentally flawed? Did I bring this on myself? Why did my abusers choose to harm me?

I wrestled with this question quite a bit early into my healing from child abuse. I was abused by multiple people, so I saw myself as the common denominator. I felt as if I was an abuser magnet that drew those people to me. I just could not figure out what it was about me that invited the abuse.

After wrestling with the “Why me?” question for a long time, I have reached the conclusion that I was abused because I was available to be abused. These people were seeking targets, and I was an easy target. My mother abused me, likely in reaction to her own history of child abuse. My mother felt comfortable hanging around with abusive people, so I was exposed to many more child abusers than most children are. There was nothing “special” about me that “attracted” the abusers.

I was abused because I was there. I was easy prey. I had already been too frightened to tell, so I was a “safe bet.” My abusers did not have to worry about me telling when my own mother abused me, too. Who was I going to tell?

On the one hand, this realization is comforting because it means that I am not a fundamentally bad person who deserved the abuse. However, there is something sad about this realization, too. I was nothing special to anyone. I was not special enough to be protected, nor was I special enough to be singled out. I was simply an available body to harm, nothing more and nothing less.

However, I cannot allow myself to get caught up in this kind of thinking. Just because my abusers did not see my value does not mean that I had no value. I was priceless, and any decent human being would have seen that about me. I am special, even though the people around me during my childhood failed to see it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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