Trigger warning: this post addresses abuse.
“You were a rebellious teenager, it was your fault.” Those words have been said to me more than they ever should have been.
As a teen, I was groomed into relationships with men 10 years older than me. Men groomed me, and because I thought it was love and I “consented” to it, the adults around me didn’t protect me and blamed it on my being a rebellious teenager. To this day some people in my life continue to tell themselves and others that it was my fault to avoid the guilt of knowing they failed by not protecting a child.
This is hard to talk about and this is necessary to talk about because unfortunately as a 30-year-old woman, I feel my story is very similar to others my age and probably older and younger than me as well.
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I remember the first time I spoke to a sexual abuse counselor five years ago. I told her it was my fault. That I consented and I didn’t say no to the relationships, so I was to blame too. My counselor then told me a story of a girl. She said, “When she was 15 years old, she seduced a man in his 40s. She flirted, she made advances, until one day they had intercourse in his hotel room. He did not force her, and yet he still is an abuser. Because it was his job as an adult to not indulge, respond to, or act on her advances.”
Finally, it made sense, and I understood. Ever since that day, I have been standing up for 15-year-old me.
Teenagers are children. If they are “dating an adult,” that adult is a predator, and you need to report them. The child is not to blame, shame, or punish. The child is being groomed by a trusted adult.
My main focus of this isn’t what parents should do; however, there are great resources out there to educate yourself on grooming, and I encourage every parent to research that early on in their parenting journey.
RELATED: 7 Tips From a Survivor For Talking With Your Kids About Sexual Abuse
My main focus is on the women who were sexually abused as teens. The women who are now in their 20s and 30s, maybe even older, and still feel like the abuse was their fault. The women who tell themselves, or who others tell them, “you were a rebellious teenager, it’s your fault” or “it was consensual, so it’s your fault.” The women who still haven’t been able to open that wound because of the guilt.
I am here to tell you: It wasn’t consensual. It wasn’t your fault.
It absolutely was not your fault. You were a child who desperately wanted to be loved, and you were groomed and abused and hurt by someone you trusted and the trusted adults around you failed to protect you. You have no blame here, and you can release that guilt and start to heal today. You can see yourself as the child you were and you can love her and grieve what happened to you, free from the guilt you have carried for so long. You are so worthy of love and healing, and nothing that happened to you can take that from you.
As I continue to heal, I hope my story can help the healing process for others like me. I hope the stigma of sexual abuse and the lie of it being the victim’s fault can be demolished the more we speak out. I hope we can learn to protect our children better and admit when we failed and help them heal what was hurt.
Most of all, I hope the person reading this feels seen and heard and knows now that there is no guilt or blame for what happened to you. It was never your fault.