Posts Tagged ‘hurting other children as a child’

Yesterday, I blogged about child-on-child abuse. The focus of that blog entry was to validate the experience of anyone who was abused as a child by another child, whether that child was older, the same age, or even younger than the victim. Some of you who read that blog entry might be struggling with guilt and shame because you, as a child, harmed another child. This blog entry is to offer you hope and healing.

I have talked with adult survivors of child abuse who struggle with deep guilt and shame because they, as children, chose to harm another child. One person told me that she was trying to understand what an adult was doing to her, so she repeated the behaviors to a younger child. She deeply regretted her actions and experienced an enormous amount of guilt and shame. Because she saw herself as a child abuser, she limited her own healing work because she did not believe that she deserved to heal since she was “just as bad as” her abuser.

Please hear me: You are NOT like your abuser. I know this because you regret the choices that you made as a child, and you did not continue this behavior into adulthood. This separates you from your abuser. Your adult abuser made a choice as an adult to continue abusing children. You did not. You are not your abuser, and you deserve to heal.

When a child abuses another child and experiences regret, guilt, and shame, the child is typically trying to understand his own abuse. He is doing the wrong thing for a human reason. It is hard to wrap your mind around child abuse when you are a child (and even as an adult!), so it is understandable that a child could make a bad choice in trying to process that information. You were not a “short adult” who thought and reasoned like an adult – you were an abused child trying to make sense out of something that simply makes no sense.

Forgive yourself for being human. Rather than focus on the one time (or handful of times) you made a bad choice as a child, think about the thousands of times that you never harmed a child as an adult. You could have chosen the path of your abuser, but you did not. Children are safe around you, and you would never harm a child as an adult. Focus on who you are today, not on who you were as a wounded and confused child.

None of what I have just said lets you off the hook for atoning for harming another child. Despite the fact that you were a child, you inflicted harm on another person, and that person is wounded because of the actions you took. It is your responsibility to make amends to the extent that your victim will let you. I recommend talking with your therapist about ways that you can atone for what you have done. Some ideas I have (but would talk with your therapist about first) include…

  1. Writing a letter of apology, taking full responsibility for the harm you have inflicted
  2. Sending a copy of The Courage to Heal (for sexual abuse)
  3. Offering to pay for therapy (to the extent that you are able)

Think of what actions would be healing to you if your abuser truly regretted the abuse, and offer those actions to your victim. Be sure to respect your victim’s reaction. If she tells you not to contact her again, then respect her decision. You cannot undo what you have already done, but you can take responsibility for your actions and forgive yourself.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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