Breaking the Silence Can Be a Powerful Healing Force

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How Breaking the Silence Can Be a Powerful Healing Force 

Written by Wendy M. Johnson

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Breaking the Silence can have many different meanings and consequences. The secrecy and fear associated with the abuse creates a sense of shame, guilt, and self-blame. Breaking the silence is a powerful, healing force that can dispel the shame that comes with being a victim. Healing is a choice, and it takes determined action to overcome the effects of the abuse. Working towards healing reduces negative patterns in your life. Abuse is hard to overcome if you do not know how to process it, stop it, or talk about it. Having a support system to help you is vital to feeling supported.

Get connected to the healing resources you need.

Guilt and Sexual Abuse 

Guilt is an important emotion. Healthy guilt is the feeling of regret you have about a behavior. Guilt forms your conscience. It makes you accountable and responsible for your actions and can include feeling remorse for how you acted. 

As a victim of sexual abuse, you may experience many forms of guilt. You may experience guilt by someone making you feel guilty through manipulation. A sex abuser often makes you feel guilty as a motivator to do what they want. In the HEAL book, Session 3 on Believe, guilt says that you have a role to play (victim) and that is the only role you fit. If you deviate, grow, or try to change your role, you could experience feelings of regret and guilt for trying to change the relationship. Your confusion is reinforced by how others including the abuser respond to you. 

You will need to be careful regarding your relationship with guilt. Just as you were manipulated to feel guilty about the abuse by the abuser, you may find yourself in other relationships trying to make others feel guilty as a motivator to get them to do what you want. 

You may feel guilt if your body responded to the sexual abuse. It is not your fault if your body responded. If something hot touches your skin, you will recoil; same with if your body is touched in a sexual manner. 

3 Steps to overcome feeling guilt regarding sexual abuse

  1. Survivors need to learn to change the way they see the abuse and their role in it. 
  2. As a survivor, you have a right to change, stand up for yourself, and put the blame back on the abuser.
  3. As a survivor, you need to stop feeling unworthy of liberating yourself from your past.

All survivors have the power within to feel guilt-free about the abuse and this will happen as you get stronger and further along in the healing process. 


“They saw me as an object with no feeling, no soul, and
I believed I was worth nothing.”

-Survivor


Shame and Abuse 

Shame is so painful that most people will do anything to avoid it. “Shame involves rejecting and disapproving of yourself. Shame elicits strong self-deprecating reactions to the entire self”[1] An environment of sexual abuse promotes the victim denying their feelings because of the inequality of power. Finding the right help is crucial to overcoming your internal dialogue. The victim internalizes the shame and feels soiled, flawed, and defective as a human being. Then, the shame-based victim can act out in a self-destructive manner (battling with addictions, overeating, or attempting suicide etc.). 

Shame and Guilt are very different

See the table below: 

ShameGuilt
“There is something wrong with me”“I’ve done something wrong”
“I’m a mistake”“I’ve made a mistake”
“I am no good”“What I did was not good”

Shame is when you feel there is something wrong with you, innately, whereas Guilt is about how you feel about your actions. 


Society minimizes the abuse of others as a defense mechanism.


Self-Blame and Abuse 

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Society accepts natural disasters as unavoidable yet sees a victim as blameworthy. While society can blame a victim, self-blame is something victims inflict upon themselves. There are many ways to break the silence and it’s not always about confronting the abuse. Breaking the silence can start with overcoming denial and overcoming ‘self-blame.’ Victims continue to live in secrecy, while survivors break the silence. 

There are two types of self-blame: 

  1. “Character self-blame and
  2. behavioral self-blame.”[2]

Character self-blame: Blaming your own character means that you believe that the abuse happened to you because of who you are. You perceive yourself as evil and bad to the core. You might even believe that you were singled out because of some deviation of your character; the trauma was the punishment. 

Behavior Self-blame: This type of blame is when you believe that a different behavior could have stopped the abuse and produced a different outcome. Self-hate reduces the ability to cope. Again, as an adult, it is important for you to look back knowing that, as a child, you were a victim and could not control the outcome no matter how you acted. 

As you grow to adulthood, you start to learn and believe in your own ability to control and direct situations. Behavioral self-blame promotes the belief in your ability to control, change, and avoid negative outcomes. 

You are a Powerful, Healing Force

Breaking the Silence starts with you. It’s not about anyone else. Breaking the silence is not always verbal. It starts with internal work trying to overcome denial, shame, guilt, and self-blame. How is that breaking the silence? When you strengthen your mental health and work through shame, guilt, and self-blame a powerful inner force begins to emerge. You will start to learn that you are strong and capable of protecting yourself and any children you may have. There is nothing more powerful then knowing that after you have been sexually abused that you have emerged a healed survivor learning that you can overcome anything that comes your way. 

Love and Friends,

Wendy

Ever imagine what it would be like to live a life without shame? Join the HEAL community today. 🎉


[1] Lutwak, N., Panish, J., & Ferrari, J. (2003). Shame and Guilt: Characterological vs. behavioral self-blame. Pergamon,35, 909-916. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cceb/a618efafe9e0f2e8e06419da7d25ee205ea7.pdf.

[2] Janoff-Bulman, R., and C. Timko. 1987. Coping with traumatic life events: The role of denial in light of people’s assumptive worlds. In Coping with negative life events: Clinical and social psychological perspectives, ed. C.R. Snyder and C. Ford. New York: Plenum. 

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