Should I feel guilty because I didn’t stop the abuse?
No, even though it is very common for people who have been sexually abused to feel this way. When an adult sexually abuses a child, they are using their power over you to make you do things they know are wrong. Because we are brought-up to listen to and respect adults, it is very hard for us to stop them from doing what they want to do, especially when it is someone we know and trust.
This is why a child is never responsible for stopping the sexual abuse, and should try not to feel guilty about it.
Why didn’t I tell anyone?
Hardly any children ever tell anyone about the abuse while it is happening to them. There are lots of reasons for this.They might feel that they will not be believed and get in to trouble. A person who sexually abuses children works very hard to make sure that you feel like you have nowhere to turn and won’t tell anyone about what is happening.
They often try to make you feel like it is your fault, which may make you feel ashamed and less likely to tell anyone. Or sometimes, the child doesn’t realise that the abuse is wrong, or perhaps doesn’t want the attention they are getting from the abuser to stop.
Other reasons children don’t tell anyone are that they may be very frightened of what will happen to their family or maybe they are afraid of what the abuser might do to them.
Finally, if the child is being abused by someone they love, it is common for the abuser to use these feelings as a way of tricking them into keeping the secret.
Why did the abuser pick me?
Sometimes children who have been sexually abused feel that there is something ‘different’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about them, that made the abuser pick them to sexually abuse.
The fact is that there is nothing about the child that is different – it is the adult abuser who is ‘unusual’ and they tend to choose a child who they already know such as someone in their family or a family friend, or a child they can get to know without other people becoming suspicious of them.
Why do I feel so ashamed?
Most people who have been sexually abused feel shame about it, which means that it can be really difficult for them to talk about. There are lots of reasons why children who have been abused feel ashamed.
Many adults who sexually abuse children work hard to make the child feel like it is their fault, or that the child has asked for it in some way, maybe by the way they dress or their behaviour – this is NEVER true.
Some children who have been abused say they enjoyed their bodies being touched, and feel terrible shame about this. The fact is that our body is made to respond to touch, even if we don’t want it to. It is something we have very little control over and if you felt your body respond in a sexual way to being touched by the abuser, try to remember that this is a normal way for a body to respond and does not mean that you wanted the abuse to happen.
Some children may feel ashamed because they didn’t want the abuse to stop. It may be the only kind of affection or attention they are getting. Every child needs these things, and if they can’t get them in a healthy, non-sexual way from the adults around them, then it is understandable that they may not have wanted it to stop.
If you have anything you would like to know or discuss, please e-mail us and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
If you are under 18, and tell us that you (or someone you know) are being or have been sexually abused or raped, we may have to share this information with Social Services, who will then help you get the support you need.