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#135004 - 11/10/05 01:47 AM Accepting personal responsibility
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
My experiences with recovery from the effects of sexual abuse have been very difficult.

By difficult, I mean that there has been a significant amount of pain involved in the process.

In the beginning, it seemed as if I were trading the pain of living alone with what had happened to me for a more concious, self-aware agony of the truth....the thruth was that I had been manipulated, tricked, deceived and lied to.

It was hard to admit that the sexual events that occurred in my early teens were not made of the love between two men, as I often wanted to believe.

But it was rather, an exploitation, a rape disguised as a seduction. The force that was used against me was not the force of physical harm, but rather the force of an older man exploiting the weaknesses of a scared, lonely teenager who was desperate for affection and attention.

While not physical, it was force nonetheless. It was by the use of this type of force that I was abused and then left behind - alone with the after effects, a victim of sexual abuse, though at the time I scarcely knew it.

Hiding from the secret of what happened during those years of sexual exploitation at the hands of my mentor/paternal 'protector' who was supposedly acting 'in loco parentis' - that's how he signed various documents while acting as my guardian - I developed many of the usual, common strategies for dealing with the shame, the guilt and the pain that was the price for my dissimulation.

Some of these were classic addictive type behaviors -alcoholism, drug abuse, promiscuity and other destructive anesthetizing means of shutting down the horrible feelings I could not bear to face, much less share with any other human being.

It was of the utmost importance that I was finally able, by the grace of a power greater than myself alone, to give up the pain killing chemicals that were in fact killing me.

Overcoming that type of physical and mental self-destruction was fundamental. Before I could think and feel the truth about my situation, I had to give up those physical means of evading the sad reality of my life.

I also had to begin to clean up a lot of the wreckage of my life that I had caused in my long, torturous trip running away from the pain and the fear of being a victim of sexual abuse.

After many years of hard work with therapists, other professionals and the loving care of many, many friends I achieved some measure of relief from those coping mechanisms that had turned deadly.

Somewhere along the way, it became apparent to me and others that in addition to adopting numbing, physical strategies like drinking, I had also become habituated to certain ways of thinking that served the same purpose, only in a psychic or spiritual sense.

The first really big AHA! came when I was told that the sexual abuse was not my fault. I had repeatedly lacerated myself inside over many decades for being stupid, for letting it happen, for being responsible for the sexual exploitation of my youth.

I had to constantly tell myself that it wasn't my fault. I needed consistent reinforcement from others in my life to escape from that mental groove I had worn in my brain wherein I assumed responsibility for the fact of the sexual abuse that had been perpetrated on me.

I still need reminding today, sometimes it seems, the reminder needs to be done on a daily basis. That's how strong the habit of self-blame, of inappropriately assuming responsiblity had become.

It really was a liberating, incredible bit of knowledge that had been given to me. And I remain grateful to the first men who told me that I did not cause nor deserve the sexual abuse.

The question of why and how sexual abusers manage to get their victims to accept the responsibility for the abuse is a topic that others are exploring in the hope of mitigating the future suffering of the survivors of sexual abuse.

What I hope to share so that I can more clearly see for myself is how giving up the responsiblity for the abuse was really the springboard for me beginning to accept personal responsibility for myself, for my thougts, words deeds and actions.

In my life accepting personal responsibility (and it goes without saying, rejecting responsiblity that others seek to thrust upon me, much like the abuser did) for myself, is the theme upon which the melody of the song of my existence continues to be played.

Far from being drudgery or a burden, accepting personal responsiblity is a glorious adventure - though at times it may not seem so wonderful at all.

I'm going to continue to share some of my experiences in this vein in the next few days.

Of course, all of this is just that - my personal experience - and does not in any way reflect any official moderator or board memeber position at all.

This is just my reflection on my experiences as I struggle to continue to recover from the effects of sexual abuse.

Maybe someone else can identify with some of what happened to me. Perhaps I can learn from the experience of others. That's my hope anyway.

More later,



"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

#135005 - 11/10/05 02:48 AM Re: Accepting personal responsibility
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA

So much of what you say rings true for me. This comment in particular jumped off the page at me:

I needed consistent reinforcement from others in my life to escape from that mental groove I had worn in my brain wherein I assumed responsibility for the fact of the sexual abuse that had been perpetrated on me.
"Mental groove": isn't that the truth! It took me only a short time to "know" that I wasn't to blame, but it seemed to take forever to "believe" it.

I need to think a lot more about this, but at the moment what I think I see is this - and I think it relates to your thoughts on responsibility. As I relate more to who I was at the age of 11, I see more clearly that I could not have been responsible for what happened to me. So in a way, connecting to the little guy as he really was (and is) also means to disconnect from the abuse as something that defines me and loads me with guilt.

The problem with that is that as I sweep away all the junk, I am also sweeping away most of what I thought I was all about as a child, and quite a bit of what I thought I was all about as an adult. It isn't a bad feeling, just very strange. I feel like I don't know myself, or rather, that I have to search out and almost reinvent myself. The responsibility in all that seems very heavy indeed.

I wish I could be more lucid about all this, but this is as clear as I am thinking right now.

Much love,

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

#135006 - 11/10/05 04:27 AM Re: Accepting personal responsibility
WalkingSouth Offline

Registered: 08/30/05
Posts: 16271
Loc: Waldport, Oregon

You spoke of
destructive anesthetizing means of shutting down the horrible feelings I could not bear to face, much less share with any other human being.
I had a very fruitful but painful session today with my T in which I faced for the first time the behaviors I've used to anesthetize the pain over the years. I've never been really willing to face those till now.

I am pleased that since I've been here at MS they have subsided. Perhaps that is because I have been working seriously on the issues during this time. I had a chat with another member here the other night and for whatever reason, I became concious, perhaps for the first time, that the acting out was directly connected to my trying to cope with the pain. I am now trying to deal with all that. It may take quite some time. 40 plus years of habit don't go away too easy.

I want to post in more specificity regarding all this, but at this point I'm still scared to do that. Don't know why I should be, considering the things I've already talked about here, but such is the nature of the little deamons.

I really appreciated your essay. Thanks for posting. I look forward to the next insatllment.



"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting 'Holy Shit! What a ride!'" ~Hunter S. Thompson

#135007 - 11/10/05 02:54 PM Re: Accepting personal responsibility
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
Looking back on my behavior throughout the years following the sexual abuse, I am astonished at how much time, energy and literally blood and tears went into maintaining that false belief that I was responsible for the sexual abuse that had disrupted my life as a young teenager.

It's no wonder that it was difficult for me to develop healthy relationships or cultivate significant skills such as reasonable work ethics.

I literally exhausted my resources in attempts to keep the shame and guilt of being sexually abused locked up tight inside of me. It was my first goal; my prime directive. All other tasks and activities were less important and suffered accordingly.

It took so much out of me to pretend that what had happened 1) did not really happen; 2) but if it really did happen, then it should be characterized in the guilty, shameful ways that I had adopted.

I kept it a complete secret from everyone and continued forward in life with this awful gnawing pain in my gut. I was afraid to look too closely at what was causing the hurt so deep inside me. Instead I was constantly seeking ways to ignore, forget, obliterate the history of sexual abuse, though I did not know that is what it was.

Part of what I am attempting to express here is how vital that first AHA! was for me. That the sexual abuse was not my fault. Period.

I kept trying to add the "...but, if only I..." and other forms of modification. I really had to take that knowledge and accept it, deep down inside of me, in order to begin to free myself from that false sense of responsibility that held me prisoner long after the abuser had disappeared from my life, even after he had vanished from the face of the earth.

My perception is that much of the 'truth' that I must learn and accept in order to live free from the ill=effects of the sexual abuse, appears to be paradoxical to my usual way of thinking. Precisely because my 'usual way' of thinking has been so deeply molded and distorted by living alone for so long with the secret shame of sexual abuse.

By paradoxical, I mean for example, that it was by continuing on a constant basis to reject, to refuse, to cast off the false sense of responsibility for being sexually abused, that I could slowly begin to develop my own true sense of personal responsibility.

As this sense of acceptance of personal responsibility grows stronger, inversely, that sense of helplessness, of victimization, of being bedeviled by unseen malevolence - all the elements of that false belief system of responsibilty that was not truly mine - all that begins to diminish.

This idea has been better and more succinctly expressed. For example:

"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."

As I continue to grow in my acceptance of personal responsibility, the dark shadows of the sexual abuse grow shorter. It is like the light of the sun chasing away the darkness of the night. It happens.

But it does not happen by itself. My experience is that it has taken much effort, some of it extremely painful, in order for me to be ready to participate in this process. It is like opening my eyes to a very bright light after having them closed and in darkness for so long.

It hurts, it stings, it is confusing and frightening. There is a lot of distortion and uncertainty. But to choose to close my eyes again; to revert back to those old ways of thinking of myself; that old way of accepting responsibility that is not mine and refusing responsibility that is mine and mine alone - that seems equally scary and undesirable.

It's at this point that the experience and strength of other survivors can be so helpful. That is one of the reasons that MaleSurvivor was such a quantum boost to my efforts to recover from the effects of sexual abuse.

I hope to be able to share wome of what it means it practical terms for me to accept personal responsibility. On a day to day basis, the types of decisions I make and the ways I choose (yes, I really do choose) to view myself and my place in the world, can either enhance my self-esteem or continue the destructive influcence with which I was inseminated by the abuser.

What does it mean in practical terms to accept personal responsibility? How could that help me in my recovery from sexual abuse? What could be the effects of not accepting personal responsibility?

How do I make choices about what I do, think, feel and say that are positive, affirming and stimulating to my personal growth?

That's some of what I want to look at next time.

Thanks, guys, for reading and for your comments.

Once again, the things I write hear are only my thoughts and perceptions based on my personal experience in recovering from sexual abuse. They in no way represent any mod or BoD position.


"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

#166671 - 07/14/07 01:00 PM Re: Accepting personal responsibility [Re: dwf]
Lazarus Offline

Registered: 07/01/07
Posts: 851
Loc: Below the radar, USA

I'd like to thank you and Larry and John for this wonderful thread. It's a great essay on what goes wrong in CSA survivors and some of the things that need to be done to lessen the damage.

This thread was somewhat buried in the forum and I wanted to bring it back to the attention of other members.

My best to all of you,

aka Lazarus

"That which does not kill us, surely makes us stonger." - Neitsche


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