Archive for July 14th, 2010

I working through a series on feeling responsible for the child abuse you endured. The series begins here .

On to the third truth — Child abusers f@#$ with children’s heads.

In Janet’s comment, she said the following:

I remember her telling me that my sister had told her she didn’t want to do anything with her, so she didn’t do anything to her. That information didn’t give me any ideas. I never told her I didn’t want to. I feel like that makes me my abuser. ~ Janet

This is a classic “mind f@#$,” and child abusers frequently do this. If you believe that you are responsible for the child abuse, then you are not going to tell anyone. After all, it was your own fault, right? WRONG!

First of all, we don’t know that your sister was spared. If she was, it wasn’t because she said no – it was because the abuser feared that your sister was more likely to tell. Child abusers have a “sixth sense” about which children will tell and which won’t.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the same children get abused by multiple child abusers while others are never harmed. Think about it. If you want to harm a child and get away with it, which child would you choose as a victim – the outspoken one or the shy one curled up in the corner? I truly believe that the best defense we can give our children against child abusers is self-confidence. The more self-confident a child is, the less likely she is going to wind up as a child abuse victim. The child abuser will go after the easiest prey when there are options.

Another part of the mind f@#$ is making the child believe that she is responsible because she does not recall being threatened. I struggled with this as well. I recovered numerous memories of my mother sexually abusing me from the time that I was a toddler, but none of those memories included my mother telling me not to tell or threatening me if I told. (I do have memories of such threats from other abusers.)

My therapist said that you don’t have to use words to communicate a threat, and my mother did communicate a threat in one form or another. The way he knows this is by the fact that I did not tell, which is not developmentally appropriate for a young child. As I can tell you from parenting my own young child, privacy goes out the window when you have a young child living in your home. Young children are, by nature, blabbermouths. My husband cannot pass gas without my son announcing it to the world. Little kids simply do not naturally keep secrets. For a child to override the natural instinct to tell everything to everyone, an adult has to communicate some form of threat.

I read an article about this very topic relating to adult women being date raped. Many date rapists do not have any weapons. To subdue their victims, they only need to place a hand on the woman’s collar bone, which provides an unspoken threat that he will choke her if she struggles. Once a man does this, most women will no longer struggle, even though the man has not spoken any threats. If this nonverbal threat is highly effective with adult women, how much more effective will a nonverbal threat be for a child who still believes in the existence of Santa Claus?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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