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Erin Grace

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brainwashing-The Phoenix Project

**This is something I have been dealing with for a long time. I felt that since I was 11 years old when this began with "K", I was old enough to have stopped it. That I, in some ways, DID want to be with him. I'm now beginning to realize how ridiculous that sounds. I wouldn't hold any other 11 year old responsible. "K" used to say if my mother found out, she would kill herself. She had enough pills to do it. He said he had spoken to her about other things before and she was so depressed already that I wouldn't want to push her over the edge, would I?**

Below is an article from The Phoenix Project, listed on the "links" part of my blog and has helped me to understand. The most important points, for me, I have highlighted:

Why the abuse was not your were a child.

What else?

When you are a child, you are unable to see the full picture of your situation. The abuser often knows what they are doing and how to manipulate you into thinking that you are responsible. It is not difficult to manipulate the mind of a child, and the more you relied on them, the easier it was for them to brainwash you. 

Yes, that is the only word that truly captures what I’m trying to say – ‘brainwash’. All victims of childhood sexual abuse have been brainwashed so that they never tell anyone what is happening to them. They may carry their secret to the grave; I know that was my plan for a time. The abuser may tell the child that disclosing would cause harm to themselves and/or others, or they may threaten suicide (my father did this), or abandonment, or exile from society. Basically, the things that the child holds dear (security, the love of other people, the love that they think the abuser has for them) will go away somehow, if they ever tell anyone. Thus the child quickly learns to feel responsible for the abuse and they develop a crushing sense of guilt that, frankly, I’m still learning to live with (I’m getting there).

When abuse victims find the courage to speak out and become survivors, they find a lot of consolation in the fact that other survivors truly relate to their stories. This is the value of support groups, and of sharing your story with others. By finding the common denominators in other accounts of abuse, we are able to begin undoing all of that harmful brainwashing. You may have felt that you were a mature child (most abuse victims are typically mature for their age from having to grow up too fast; they feel responsible for everything that happens to them, out of an ignorance of alternatives), and that you understood the bigger picture. Without meaning to insult your intelligence, you didn’t. A child can never understand the full implications of their abuse because their abuser has them so deeply rooted in it. You may think that you allowed the abuse to take place, perhaps passively, by not telling anyone – you may think you had a choice, but that belief in itself is a product of the manipulation. You did not have a choice.

Let me say that again. You did not have a choice. By not telling anyone about the abuse, you do not inadvertently give yourself responsibility for what happened.

Do you know what else may make a child feel responsible for the abuse? When the abuser has manipulated their trusting mind so well that the child actually asks for it. This won’t apply to everyone, but it applies to me, so I’m going to say it. I was ‘rewarded’ every time I was abused, usually with some material item that I wanted, such as a new computer game or – the classic – fish and chips. It was like being bribed. The trading system evolved until if I wanted anything (including the healthy love and affection that parents/all adults should naturally give to children) from my abuser, I would have to be abused first. I got the concept. Soon enough I was offering my own abuse to him because I knew there was no other way to get what I wanted. Sometimes I think I let him abuse me just to get his attention; he barely acknowledged me otherwise, let alone did anything kind for me that normal fathers are meant to do.

The latest hurdle for me has been accepting that, even though I seem to have asked for the abuse to happen, it still was not my fault! I would read through article after article about why child abuse is never the child’s fault, and I’d sit there and think ‘yeah but... In my case it’s different. For everyone else this is true, but I’m an exception’. If you are reading this, and still feel that the precise dynamics of your abuse make you an exception to the universal law that the child is never responsible, then I cordially invite you to contact me and let me know why you’ve so convinced. Go on, do it. I promise that I will not go ‘oh. I didn’t think of that specific situation.’ Then I can explain to you why it’s – guess what – STILL not your fault, and hopefully set off a life-changing transformative experience based on the release of your secret guilt!

Children are naturally trusting and wholly innocent creatures. There’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ child, just ones who have been subjected to the maladaptive behaviour of those who should know better, and responsibility lies solely with them. Somewhere along the line (and it varies between individuals, which is why I’ve avoided sticking a specific year of age to the child-adult transition, I think our legal age of 18 is a guideline), children develop into teenagers, who then learn to take responsibility for their lives and their choices, thus becoming adults. Then, and only then, are they in control. Children who are being abused are often made to think that they are in control, but they never are. Please, if you take anything away from this, let it be: the child is always 100% innocent and the abuser/adult is always 100% guilty. No matter where, when, how often, how severe, how strong the shackles of guilt and sense of responsibility; what was said, promised and pledged... The fact that a child is always innocent is beyond contestation. And it is one of the only cases (if not the only case) where the old adage ‘it takes two to tango’ does not apply in the least.

Please believe.

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