The goal for this week is to recognize and begin to replace the false beliefs you have about yourself and your abuse.
Sexual abuse almost always leaves a victim with false beliefs about their value and worth. We hold these false beliefs as absolute truths and over time these beliefs create mistaken guilt, destroy self-esteem and assign undeserved responsibility to us.
Survivors who are Christians tend to struggle with applying God's word (what we know to be TRUE) to our daily lives. We want so badly to believe what the Bible tells us, but bringing that truth into our hearts is a fierce battle. The lies we have bought in to are so very difficult to overcome.
Lie #1: It is my fault
Almost every survivor struggles with this misconception. Your abuser might have told you it was your fault. He/she might have told you it was both of your fault. You might say to yourself, "if only I hadn't been there" or "if I hadn't been wearing that", "if I hadn't opened the door", or "if I hadn't been drinking". Often times, rapists will yell horrible accusations at their victims as the rape is in progress. Perhaps you were consenting to some physical contact with your abuser, but said no and he/she didn't listen. You might blame yourself thinking, "It was my fault for kissing him so passionately and letting him touch me. He couldn't control himself. I led him on." Or maybe you feel it is your fault because you didn't "stop" the abuse or you enjoyed how special the attention or "relationship" made you feel.
During and immediately after sexual abuse, when the victim is at such a heightened state of fear and despair, the victim is more psychologically open to these false messages. Adolescents and children have even less ability to comprehend the truth of the situation. But the truth is that a victim is NEVER to blame for the sexual abuse committed against them.
Take some time to identify the self-blaming statements you have made about yourself.
False belief: "It is my fault because...."
One example might be, "It is my fault because I enjoyed the attention he gave me."
After you make your list of false beliefs, go back through the list and make a statement that is the opposite of your false belief. Even if you don't believe it yet, write down the opposite statement.
The truth for our example above would be: "Attention is a healthy human need. It is normal to enjoy attention. I wanted attention - I didn't want sex."
Lie #2: I must be a terrible person for him/her to do this to me
It is natural for children to believe that adults can do no wrong. And they view their parents as almost God-like. So, when an adult does something wrong, the child frequently believes that they must have done something to cause it.
Adults can feel this way too. In many cases, this is because the adult victim admires the offending adult and is confused about the abusive behavior. For instance, a church secretary might blame herself if her married pastor started pursuing an intimate relationship with her. She is wondering, "What did I do to send him this message? It must be my fault. I must be a terrible person."
When we accept lie #1, lie #2 follows easily...
As you think about lie #2, "I must be a terrible person for him/her to do this to me", write two truth statements from your own story to counter the false beliefs.
As I think about lie #2, I can hear my old recording in my head.... "If my own mother doesn't love me, who will? I must be so awful. Utterly unlovable. Worthless. A total reject." But the truth is that God loves me, regardless of how my mother feels about me. The problems are my mother's , not mine. I was an innocent child who did nothing to deserve the things they did to me. And God has never and will never see me as worthless - after all, he sent his only son for ME.
Some other truth statements might be: "The responsibility for the abuse belongs to my abuser", "I am a special person, created by God", "I was vulnerable, but I am worthy of respect and love."
Victims often try to hold on to the positive aspects of relationships with the abusers by viewing themselves as dirty and undeserving of respect. Speak the truth! Allow the shame and guilt to fall on the people who committed the abuse. By doing so you will not be making them guilty, you will be recognizing the truth of their guilt. They are responsible for what was done to you.
Our memory verse for this week is simple, but profound. "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32 Think about that. What does it mean to you right now, as you begin to decipher lies from truth?
In the next lesson we will discuss two other lies - "I wanted him/her to do this to me" and "It didn't happen. I must have made it up." I will be praying that God will shine His light on your story and that you will clearly see and BELIEVE the truth.