(By John Joseph*)
One of the most difficult things I’ve faced in trying to recover from childhood sexual trauma is forgiving myself. It’s so easy to say that it wasn’t my fault, but it still feels like it was my fault. It still seems like I should have done something to resist my perpetrator—scream or cry out—but I didn’t. The most shameful part to me now is the fact that a lot of it was pleasurable to me. I craved the attention and found something oddly satisfying in the secrecy of it all.
I have learned that these feelings are common to abuse victims. There was pleasure in the attention. There was something I needed in the physical touch that I wasn’t getting in a healthy way in my family unit. I was so young that the moral implications of the perpetrator’s behavior with me were completely unknown. I simply couldn’t know that this behavior was wrong and would have such devastating effects later in my life.
One of those horrible effects is the pervasive sense of guilt over the abuse. There’s no changing that it happened, so my only hope is in forgiving the abuser and forgiving myself. Neither is easy, yet both are necessary if I’m going to recover from it. Somehow not only do I choose to release the perp from his unforgivable actions, but I have to forgive me, too.
(*John Joseph is a pseudonym of a pastor. He's a regular contributor to this blog.)
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