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#58271 - 10/21/05 06:11 PM Overwhelming Guilt
sunshine2 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/23/05
Posts: 16
Hi Everybody,
I know that it's been a while since I've been around. My fiance has been doing some very intensive therapy in regards to his abuse and I've been trying to focus on helping him get through the heavy duty stuff, unfortunately that meant a lot less computer time.

He's been doing very well and recently moved up here to be closer to me. He's very happy with his new therapist and has been making some great strides, moving past the avoidant behavior that stemmed from the early regression therapy to a point where he's actually functioning on a relatively stable level.

At the same time, he's been dealing with some overwhelming guilt that I don't quite know how to handle. He is ultimately blaming himself for what happened when he was a child. He'll say things like 'I should have done something to stop them' or 'I am obviously messed up in the head because I allowed that to go on'. (For those who don't know our story, my fiance was tortured and molested by his mother and step-father. The step-father ended up tying him to a bed and setting him on fire when he was around 12.)

I tell him that none of this was his fault, he was a child. He had no control over any of that. He'll say that 'he had enough control to run away as much as he could, why couldn't he have killed them or something?'. I will tell him that he was a child, he was a child with a moral compass, he knew killing was wrong and as much as he tried to remove himself from the situation, the police always brought him back and in one case, molested him as well. There was no way he could control any of that. That will help him focus for a day or so, but then it becomes too much for him again and we're back at square one.

So, for our survivors, I know that guilt is somewhat a normal thing in dealing with the results of the abuse but how do you, personally, deal with that? What techniques, if any, do you employ to deal with those feelings of guilt over the abuse, if or when you have them?

#58272 - 10/21/05 07:59 PM Re: Overwhelming Guilt
Trish4850 Offline
BoD Liaison Emeritus

Registered: 10/15/05
Posts: 3280
Loc: New Jersey
Hi sunshine,

I wish I did, but I don't have any magic words of wisdom because this is something I am just beginning to deal with myself with my b/f. He's told me that when his was 6, almost 7, and his mother sexually and physically assaulted him, he should have been able to stop it and done what a 7 year old would have done, even though he was only 6.

Of the so many heartbreaking things he has told me, this was one of the hardest to deal with. Of course I told him that 6, 7, 8 and so on is a child. A child who was being betrayed by the one person in the world most children can depend upon and that there was nothing he could have done to stop the animal living in his home. The fact that the s/a continued for years to come only makes his guilt worse.

He knows in his rational mind that he was not wrong, but his fears remain. They cannot be discounted or forgotten, even though she is dead now. All I can do is sooth those fears and stand by him as he fights for himself through counseling in the hope that one day he can put his fears to rest. That's a long way off for him.

I'll anxiously wait for more posts to this thread and hope to learn as you do.

The beginning of your post sounds so positive. I'm happy to read that, for the most part, your lives are moving forward. Be well.


If you fall down 10 times, Stand up 11.

#58273 - 10/21/05 09:29 PM Re: Overwhelming Guilt
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Sunshine, Trish, and others,

As you have seen from your own partners it is so common for a survivor to trash himself completely and take on guilt for what happened to him as a boy. Quite often he will somehow "know" it can't be his fault, but the jag is this: he doesn't "believe" it. That is in fact the monkey on my back all the time. I absolutely KNOW that what happened to me cannot be my fault, but I feel crushed with guilt and shame anyway.

How to deal with this? If someone has the sure-fire answer I would love to hear it! I have a few strategies that I try, and I think gradually they are working.

One thing that I have said elsewhere is that we too often judge how we behaved as boys from our present perspective as adults. The guilt we feel often comes down to this (my case): I blame myself because I didn't do at age 11 what I would do now, at age 56; or I didn't think at age 11 of defensive possibilities and options that I feel I would have now, as an adult. That's of course no good at all. A child does not have these options.

One way I try to get myself to believe this is to try to recall how I FELT during the four years I was being abused, specifically, when abuse was happening. I wasn't really thinking; I wasn't trying to figure out, okay, hmmmm, now what do I do. I was just terrified, or confused, or numb. About as rational as I got was this (so far as I can recall): If I just do as he says it will all be okay won't it? I was clinging to my trust in adults, as every child has a right to do. It may help your partners to appreciate this huge difference between how it really was and how they see it now.

A huge obstacle for a survivor is the feeling that he was or eventually became a willing participant. In my case this is a crippling problem. Why? I got in his car as soon as he stopped and told me let's go, I went upstairs and waited for him, and so on in ways you can imagine. What I try to tell myself now is that this is only part of the story. In my first year with him he used every opportunity to lie to me and destroy my feelings for my family, especially my father. He of course did it in a way that appeared friendly and kind, but he wanted me to feel isolated and unloved and worthless. Let me tell you, once a boy is in that dark place there is no evil person he won't cling to for love and affection and nothing he won't do to feel wanted. If the abuser is a parent, well, that I'm afraid I just can't imagine, except to say it would be hell. Your partners need to see that they weren't "willing", they were youngsters desperate to recover, or keep, what all kids need.

I could go on endlessly, but surprise surprise, I won't - this time. A last thing that I know would do your partners good, if they feel up to it, is to come here. It makes ALL the difference to discover from other survivors that you aren't alone, and that others - real guys you can talk to safely - are struggling with the same demons you are.

Good luck,

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)

#58274 - 10/21/05 11:53 PM Re: Overwhelming Guilt
fozzy_bear Offline

Registered: 10/16/05
Posts: 54
Loc: Upstate NY
Larry, i just wanted to say I know what you mean by willingly participating. I had the same experience, do this, do that. In my case it was the phone most of the time. He would call and say do you want to meet. I would bet for you it was the same that when the time came you barely utter a word, maybe mumble something. Boy I bet he was shocked when that one day when I said no. He even called back a few days later and asked if I was sure. Hello stupid, I don't want to be used by you.

Ladies, I was wondering if you ever said to them, "don't be afraid". They are scared, even little boys at times. It's hard, for me at least, to think from the perspective of someone outside, especially a significant other or parent. My dad wanted to literally kill my abuser, I told him no, it wasn't worth it. It was more beneficial to me for them to validate me, reassure me, just be there.

#58275 - 10/22/05 12:14 AM Re: Overwhelming Guilt
sunshine2 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/23/05
Posts: 16
Thanks so much Tracy, Larry and Fozzy, your posts are very helpful.

I wish I could say that the abuser is gone from his life. His mother literally stalks him from prison. I'm not sure how she finds him but she always manages to.

Fozzy, I wish that I could tell him to not be afraid be he's got this whole "bravado" thing going. It's his ultimate protection. He's tough, he's strong, he's the GUY. I have a feeling if I told him to not be afraid he'd deny the feelings entirely.

I'd love for him to come here but he's not a message board type of person. He thinks it's laying his whole life out for everybody to see. I've explained to him many times that this would be a great place for support - there are men here that will understand what he's feeling and how hard it is for him. He's yet to consider it. I'm going to keep working on him, though, he really needs friends that understand his situation.

#58276 - 10/22/05 12:47 AM Re: Overwhelming Guilt
fozzy_bear Offline

Registered: 10/16/05
Posts: 54
Loc: Upstate NY
I hear ya. This is when i don't know what to say. I know when I thought like that, keep it to myself, Im just going to move on, etc, people weren't allowed to tell me otherwise. I don't even think saying, I heard from another abused man that... would work. I'm not sure if you could accelerate the process. I agree he would feel much more at ease if he came to the board and even just read some stuff. The similarities we share are shocking. What better feeling than a sense of belonging. Hope that helps.

#58277 - 10/22/05 08:59 AM Re: Overwhelming Guilt
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA
Originally posted by roadrunner:

Let me tell you, once a boy is in that dark place there is no evil person he won't cling to for love and affection and nothing he won't do to feel wanted.
"Since that time, which is far enough away now, I have often thought that few people know what secrecy there is in the young, under terror. No matter how unreasonable the terror... I was in mortal terror of myself, from whom an awful promise had been extracted; I had no hope of deliverance... I am afraid to think of what I might have done, on requirement, in the secrecy of my terror." --Charles Dickens


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