It’s Not Your Fault: False Guilt in Male Victims

Much of what I wrote in my previous blog, What if My Husband Was Abused? is not unique to abused men, though parts are. Other men face some of the same struggles, but for different reasons. Sexual abuse changes the dynamics of struggles familiar to others, giving them more power, and making the victim feel more helpless and vulnerable. False guilt has a way of doing that.

My prayer is that with time, I will find a team of men who are willing to share their stories, whether anonymously, or as named guest bloggers. There are dynamics that I cannot speak to or express well, simply because I am a female and we process things differently.

(Gentlemen, if you have a story of overcoming abuse, and you are willing to work with me on it, please visit the ‘Contact Us’  page, and send me a message. If you’re not a great writer, don’t let that stop you. I would be happy to work with you.)

I think it would be beneficial, not only to other men struggling with the aftermath of abuse–whether through low self-esteem, sexual addictions, or depression, to name only a few things–but it would also help women to better understand men who have been abused.

While I cannot speak to many aspects of male victimization, there are some practical things I want to share, based on what my male friends, who have been victimized, have shared with me. Because one of the struggles, as I mentioned yesterday, is feeling somehow at fault, that is the first thing I want to talk about.

When Is The Victim Responsible for the Victimization?

“Well… that’s a dumb question… isn’t it?” you say. And I agree.

And, yet, what I see and hear, tells me that some people believe it is valid, not as a question, but as a statement. Some say that there are times when it is the victim’s fault.

For you who were victims of childhood abuse, the most important thing for you to know, is that it is not your fault. You did not ask for it. You did nothing to deserve it. You were innocent. The fact that you are male, and strong, does not make you responsible. To illustrate how foolish it is for people to blame the victim, I will share what I encounter, when meeting with victims in Christian settings.

I have had victims tell me that their church asked them to go back and ask perpetrators for forgiveness. Just heard it again this week. A victim does not ever need to say, “I am sorry, ” to the perpetrator, or to anyone else. It is ignorant beyond words, at best, and corrupt to the core, at worst, to ask such a thing.

It’s like tracking down a burglar and apologizing that he committed the crime and robbed you. Who would ask that of anyone? How much less appropriate, when the very heart of a child is destroyed? Much more is stolen in childhood sexual abuse than any burglary.

I have also spoken to several individuals, who attended private school, and when the perpetrator was caught violating them, the victims was also whipped, along with the instigator. The reality is that neither one should have been whipped. They should have been taught.

Someone should have been there, and explored why the older child did it in the first place, and the younger child should have been comforted. But religion is harsh. And it is yet more harsh when the person in charge has hidden sin.

It is easy to see, in these extreme examples, that there is no justice in blaming the victim. This tells me that we know it in our heads, and yet the most common thing I work through with victims, is accepting that they are not at fault. This is true for men and women, but much stronger in men. What I write applies to women, but for today, I’m writing predominantly to men.

If you were seduced, manipulated, forced or coerced into sexual relationship by an older child, it is not your fault. And if that relationship continued for years, and you struggle with believing it became mutual consent, and therefore the perpetrator is not really in the wrong, let the guilt go. It is not your fault. In cases of ongoing abuse it is the hardest for victims to say, “It’s not my fault.”

If a father rapes a son or daughter, starting at age 4, and if that abuse continues to sixteen, seventeen, eighteen…. twenty-one… At no point does the victim truly become ‘guilty’? Never.

Ignorance, power and fear often keep children victimized to their parents for years. The same is true with victims outside of the home. The brainwashing, and sometimes threats, prevent the victim from understanding that this is not normal, and they have the right to speak up. This is especially true if there is no healthy ‘sex-ed’ in private schools or home-schooled children, where parents are not teaching healthy, biblical sexuality.

One victim tells of going off to college, after being home-schooled all the way from kindergarten through high school, and having been very secluded those years, with parents controlling all books and information. Only then, far from home, and being taught the truth, did the lights go on that it is not normal for parents to ‘teach’ their children about sex through ‘hands on’ learning. The victim saw to it that all younger siblings were immediately removed from their home. It horrifies me that this took place in a conservative Christian environment, in my lifetime, minutes from my home.

All of us would agree, I hope, that this victim was not at fault. And yet, there are times we judge quickly the person who is victimized by someone several years older, or even a peer, who then remains trapped in that relationship for years. There are many things that keep victims trapped in the abusive relationship, not the least of which are fear and shame, and to judge the victim  is not helpful.

Even if you were victimized by someone younger than you, and this does happen, though I’ve only run into it a few times, know that it is not your fault. The younger person who is bigger, stronger, more powerful, or more influential, has the potential to use that against someone older. Though younger, they are responsible for the abuse.

Where victims become perpetrators, and begin to victimize others, they need to take ownership. But never does the victim become responsible for the ongoing abuse imposed on him.

We, as humans, were created for pure and unbroken relationship with God. We can’t handle guilt. It destroys us, makes us physically sick. Guilt and shame, when it’s the result of our choices, make us run and hide, just as Adam and Eve did. But there is freedom in taking ownership.

But with false guilt, there is no freedom as long as we hold on to it and accept that blame. We cannot repent, we did not sin. We cannot mend our ways and correct it, we were overpowered. All the while the false guilt sucks the life and hope out of our spirits, condemning our minds, haunting us… over… and over… and over again.

Release the child within you, from that dreadful burden of guilt and shame. He does not need the burden any more. He was not strong enough to prevent victimization, and he is not strong enough to carry the false sense of guilt and shame. Set that child free, and let God hold and comfort him.

Let the little boy grieve, possibly for the first time, how much was stolen from him, from his confidence, his manhood. And invite Jesus to heal and restore the broken places. He can. He will. If you let Him.

If I, as the mother of three young boys, am a good enough parent to know that my sons would not be at fault if this happened to them, how much more is God that kind of Father? He is a better Papa, than I will ever be as a mother. He loves you. He understands your struggle.

Jesus hung on a cross–God in the flesh–not as we portray Him in our modest culture-friendly art, with at least a bit of dignity. In reality, He was stripped of everything. Naked. Exposed. Violated. Abused. Shamed. Mocked. And He died that way, in the public eye, a spectacle for all to see. His body, and it’s natural responses through death, was there for the world to watch. I’ve worked with the dying. I know what happens. Jesus understood abuse. He was strong enough to pull himself from that cross, but He stayed.

Was Jesus still a victim, even though He was strong enough to leave the cross? Again the answer is easy.

Jesus understands your pain. Lay that burden down, my friend. You are free. Say it until you know it, and believe it with your innermost part. And when the voices of shame haunt, say it again, “I am free. It was not my fault.” And never stop saying it, for the rest of your life.

© Trudy Metzger

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