I remember the moments after my attack and the feeling of shame. It was so bad that I covered my head with a blanket. It didn’t help that my attacker, my friend, came in afterwards and told me he couldn’t help himself. He just loved me so much. He placed the blame on me. I carried that blame until recently. Until I realized the shame is not mine to carry.
I thought that I had gotten over the feelings of shame, but I recently realized I still had them. When I talked to my therapist about covering my head with the blanket, I realized that I still do that when I talk about it. I cover myself in order to protect myself. Sadly, it didn’t help me that fateful night in August 2010. My feelings of shame was caused by the self-blame and the blame my family put on me.
My attacker started gaining my trust when I was 13. He groomed me for 5 years before he raped me. He molested me, would apologize and repent. Being taught all my life that is someone asks for forgiveness and repents, it is my obligation to forgive them. I was taught to forgive and forget. So for 4 years he molested me and I never said a word. I kept our secret and it was a very heavy burden for me as a teen. Even as I write this, I keep blaming myself. Then I realize he meant for me to blame myself.
When I was 17, I accused my parents of allowing my attacker to touch me. They hurriedly hushed me about it and talked to him. He confessed to them. He repented and promised never to do it again. They forgave him and told me never to talk of it again. They were afraid of being judged at our church. They were afraid that people wouldn’t think of them as good Christian people with a good family anymore. They were afraid of people who claimed to be Godly to judge them. These are the people who adopted me when I was 11. These are the people who promised to protect me from men like this. These are the people who should feel ashamed, not me.
Right before I left for college, I was attacked. He planned it. It is hard for me to say that because I thought he was my friend. I trusted him completely. Even though he hurt me, I still wanted to be his friend. For 5 years he patiently waited by for the perfect moment to strike. The perfect moment to play out his sick fantasy. The shame I felt for what happened can only be described as heart wrenching. The reactions of my family was even worse.
After it happened, I told my parents and again it was hidden under the rug. They would make comments that caused even more shame and caused me to blame myself. “What will the church think?” “Are you glad you didn’t get pregnant?” “He is married, what were you thinking?” “Why did you stay there when you knew what would happen?” “It doesn’t matter how you feel, he said he was sorry and it is over?” “Why didn’t you just avoid him?”
All the blame was put on me. My parents never even thought about how they forced me to spend the night there while they went on a trip. They never even thought about the impact on me. All their questions just made me feel more shameful and caused me to want to hide it even more. I felt it was my fault for his violence.
Maybe if I had gone with friends that night instead of sleeping I wouldn’t have been attacked. Maybe if I had just made it clear I didn’t want his advances. Maybe if I fought instead of froze. Maybe if I ran instead of trusted. Maybe….Maybe…Maybe…They all resound in my head and the shame comes back. It isn’t my shame to bear.
The moment I realized I was carrying his shame was a moment that I felt an ultimate release. I saw a sign in the DC Metro that stated, “You are not the one that should feel ashamed.” I had a profound revelation. A revelation that I was free. I was just a girl that trusted a family member and that trust was abused.
HE was the one that violated me. He was the adult and he had the power. He purposefully made me feel bad. He should be the one to be ashamed. He should be the one that can’t look people in the eye. He should be the one that is terrified of going outside alone at night. He should be the one that his family turned their backs on. He should be the one that has nightmares. He should be the one that has panic attacks and depression. He shouldn’t be free.
In that moment, I felt free. I felt like the burden he put on me that August night was gone. I looked at my precious husband and smiled. I told him of the sign I had just seen. I said to him, “I just say this wonderful sign that was about victims not being the ones to feel shame. That is a profound statement.”
Today, I vow to never allow myself to feel the shame that my attacker tried to put on me. It isn’t my or your place to bear it. It is his. It isn’t any victim or survivors place to bear it. We should point the fingers at the people who deserve it- our attackers and those who blame victims.