When you track back and try to figure out the root cause of a terrible experience at the hand of another, the risk is that you’ll start with “I did X…or Y and it caused Z, rather than he/she chose to do this to me and it resulted in my bad experience”. The end result, for me at least was guilt-a palpable sense of responsibility.
No matter that the perpetrator of the harm was the “responsible adult”, no matter that in ANY instance the person abused does not ask for their treatment, the outcome is the same; a sense of guilt.
And where does this self-recrimination come from? Personally I believe it to be manifold and deeply endemic, something that in most cases of abuse requires support and guidance to pick a path through on an individual level-but also something that is inherently societal. I, as a western white woman, formally a western white girl, encountered expectation that I would “be” and would behave in a certain way. That expectation continues and it drives and feeds the behaviours of those who condemn and blame the victims of abusive behaviour. I refuse to grade levels of abuse as all experiences are relative and valid, but when the victim blaming of an abused child is met with the same level of apathy as a catcall on the street you know as a woman in this society you are in deep, deep trouble.
The guilt I feel as a woman mirrors the guilt I carry from childhood, I deserved it then and the fact I work and cannot often be home with my child or keep my weight in check or meet the unattainable ideal that is “successful woman” means I deserve it now.
Guilt is tiring, it’s draining, but it’s a learnt behaviour I think, at least for me. The pathways were laid down early on in every news story that pointed out the failings of women, every time my mother voiced her guilt at “letting us down” for working late. Every man who criticized me for my “failings” helped me on my journey of self-blame. And the irony is I feel guilt in staring that realisation in the face. It becomes a cyclical argument with myself. Tiring and with no answer.
I feel guilt for acknowledging these feelings because I know SO MANY other women experience far, far worse and do not have my good fortune or privilege, but I’m still me and I guess the point is that guilt and its limiting results is arbitrary-it transcends circumstance-we can all fall prey.
So this little insight into my jumbled, tumbled mind is goaled purely at saying “you are not alone”. Our society is geered to limit us with our emotions. You are not alone, I’m here too-just shout and I’ll listen and I will not judge, even if you judge yourself, I won’t. That’s a promise.