I am currently in my late 30s. When I was five or six, I was molested by a family member under blankets. I was touched inappropriately a couple of different times until someone caught us and asked what we were doing. It never happened again.
Speed ahead to fifth and sixth grade when we had the puberty talk in those classes where they take the girls and boys and talk to them about their puberty. At this point, I realized someone should not touch you in those places. It then occurred to me I had “let” someone touch me there. No one ever said if someone does this, it is not your fault. They just said these are your private parts, and you should not let others touch them and talked about the menstrual cycle.
After that, I found my confidence dropping. I think at this age, self-confidence does drop because of puberty and all that happens at that age, but I found myself feeling guilty and ashamed that I had “let” someone do that to me.
Even though I was a small child when it happened, that guilty and shameful feeling stayed with me for a very long time. In college, I did talk to someone about it, and they said it was not my fault and I should go up to my predator and tell them I would not let that happen again. I never did do that, but knowing that I do have the power to do that made me completely feel free.
And that same someone said it was not my fault. That is all I needed to hear to feel free and no longer ashamed or guilty.
It is not your fault—if those words would have been said in that fifth- and sixth-grade class, I could have saved myself from years of shame and guilt. They did not have to direct them right at me, but to say if someone is touched inappropriately, it is not their fault. Had another class in school been taught and talked about sex, other than the fact you will have a baby and a menstrual cycle, I could have been saved from years of shame and guilt. If only someone had said, if someone does touch you without consent, it is not your fault.
Now I wonder, how many children’s—girls and boys—lives could have been saved from so much guilt and shame had they heard it is not your fault? Or even heard the words, “These are your parts, no one has the right to touch them and if they do, they are in the wrong and it is not your fault. Find a trusted adult and tell them what happened.”
I have watched two documentaries recently, Athlete A and Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich. Athlete A is about the gymnasts who survived USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich is about survivors of abuse from Epstein.
In those two documentaries, over 500 girls reported having been abused. So many of them talked about self-esteem issues, shame, and guilt they felt for many years.
These predators were brought to light and the girls found out they were not alone and that it was not their fault, which helped give them their lives back. I wonder if those girls would have been told in a class or by their parents that if you are ever abused it is not your fault . . . maybe their self-esteem issues would have been much smaller and they would have come forward about the abuse much sooner.
The state of Nebraska has proposed new Nebraska Health Standards to be taught at school. I have read a few of them and while I do not understand them all, I hope if nothing else comes out of this conversation, kids know it is not their fault. Those words will not take what happened away, but they will make how they feel about the situation different. Knowing those words and hearing those words can save a child/teen/adult so many years of guilt, shame, and loss of confidence. I hope they know it is not their fault, and they need to talk to someone they trust about it.
If you have been abused, I want you to know: it is not your fault.