My hands are shaking as I write this.
I am noticing a recurring theme in some of the comments and emails I have been receiving, and I think it needs to be addressed. Like, immediately.
It seems as though we’ve decided there is a hierarchy of victims. I’ve talked about this before, regarding our rape culture. This is different. I mean, we- as victims of sexual abuse- have decided this. About OURSELVES.
Typing that makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.
Just within the past week, I have had two emails from women telling me their stories, stories which are remarkably similar and are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly familiar to me.
I have yet to hear a story of sexual abuse that doesn’t involve shame. It is the singular unifying theme- there is no surprise there, sadly. But there is a subset of stories within our collective tale. A group of survivors who are intent on being accountable for their part in what happened. When they were children. They are determined to take on their share of the blame.
And they MEAN it. They are sincere. They are heartbreakingly sincere, and completely drenched in shame about it. They believe, down to the very core of who they are, that they are at least as to blame as their perpetrator. At least, you guys.
I have been told by several women that they aren’t the same as me, because I was so little. They were old enough to know better. Or because no one ‘forced’ them. Or because it didn’t hurt. Or because they liked the person. Or because they were victimized again and again by different people, so therefore they are OBVIOUSLY doing something to attract that kind of ‘attention.’
Okay, let’s talk about this.
There is a reason we use the word predator to describe the people who commit these sorts of crimes.
A predator is defined as an organism that exists by preying on other organisms. What do all predators do? They hunt- whether it’s an out and out chase, a careful stalking, laying in wait, or setting a trap. They ALL hunt.
Predators almost never intentionally go up against another animal as powerful as they are- they can’t risk fighting another creature capable of hurting them. A gazelle can continue to live while injured, eating vegetation. Most plants are notorious pacifists- they seldom fight back, or, y’know, move. A predator has to hunt, and chase, they cannot afford to be injured. They seek out prey they either identify as weak or that have been separated from the rest of the herd. Easy targets.
Little kids. Isolated children. Kids of single moms, desperate for a father figure. Kids from homes where there is so much dysfunction it is unlikely there is anyone for the child to turn to. Someone who they may even realize has an innocent crush on them. Or the child SO CLOSE to them, who loves them SO MUCH, that they are the Sun in that child’s solar system. Their ultimate authority figure, role model, hero. Someone who they will obey, unequivocally. A father, a grandfather, a brother, a pastor, a teacher.
Have you guys heard of pitcher plants? They are these carnivorous plants that contain deep wells of sweet smelling nectar. Bugs and small animals are attracted to the scent, go inside to investigate, and fall into the pool. The walls are slippery and the nectar is toxic. By the time the prey realizes what is going on it’s too late.
Friends, that insect isn’t any less dead than the fly that is violently swatted on the wall.
It stands to reason that if a predator is hunting older prey, such as teenagers, they are going to need to be more clever. Their prey is older and wiser. More able to communicate. More likely to know that someone ‘forcing’ them to do something is wrong. Unfortunately, predators are very, very clever. They identify children and teens at risk. They hone in on kids who are desperate for attention and validation. They fulfill unmet needs. And they count on teens being confused and conflicted about their burgeoning sexuality. They bank on it.
And they convince their victims that they are complicit. That no one will believe them, or that if they are believed they will be in trouble for their part in it.
And for those of you who have been victimized again and again- predators are also adept at identifying wounded prey. You didn’t draw the abuse toward you, your perpetrators were looking for the signs- signs with which they are all too familiar. It is their handiwork, after all.
They are actively looking for isolated kids and teens who WILL NOT TELL.
I don’t know the exact statistics, but I’m willing to bet that the number of abusers who groom their victims carefully far exceeds the number who attack forcibly and violently. By a LOT.
You don’t need to measure your suffering against anyone else’s, and you don’t need to have been a ‘perfect’ victim. These crimes- and they are CRIMES– happen to human beings, and we are by nature imperfect. You wouldn’t say,
Yes, he robbed me at gunpoint- but I had money in my pocket. He couldn’t have robbed me if I didn’t have money.
That would be ridiculous. And you wouldn’t say,
He didn’t REALLY rob me, because it wasn’t at gunpoint. All he did was empty out my bank account and leave me with no money.
You aren’t any less broke, baby- either way.
You have already been saddled with more than you should ever have had to carry around as a child or a teen. It is already too much. That crushing guilt that you’ve assigned yourself? The notion that you share responsibility for the crime committed against you? That is not yours to carry.
Lay it down, friend.