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SHAME, and how it affects you

Guilt is an emotion and concept that belongs to the abuser, who was in control of the abuse you suffered, and who was the one who started the abuse. Shame is the emotion that survivors take on. The abuser should feel this, but often does not, because he doesn't see that he has done anything wrong! In fact, they often go to great lengths to ensure we take on the shame, as that absolves them of the shame and guilt they should have.

Modern dictionary's define shame as a painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another. And yes, it is a painful feeling, and is very common among survivors of abuse.

The thing to remember is that no matter what happened to you, it was the abuser who made plans to sexually abuse you, and in doing so, had all the advantages, you had none.

It is not fair for you to feel that you "should" have been able to do something to stop it. The abuser made sure you couldn't. The abuse happened because the abuser planned it carefully, and was never, ever fair. It's not because you were weak, or cowardly, or stupid.

The powerlessness, fear, and shock of the abuse is behind your feeling of shame. You need to realise that the abuser worked very hard to ensure that he had all of the power, and you had none. Abusers will use the element of surprise. Abusers use the age difference, especially when adults abuse children.

Abusers will use weapons. Abusers will use threats and coercion -- "unless you have sex with me, I'll assault your younger sister, etc."

Your biggest battle in healing has to be yourself, and you will often try to disable your healing process, in thinking that you dont deserve to feel better, cleaner, more alive


Lets say the abuser was in their mid - thirties, and you were aged 12 years old. - The abuser was the adult in this situation.

You were a young lad. He or she made some plan to sexually abuse you, it doesn't 'just happen'.
You were young, innocent and unsuspecting, just what they were hoping for.

He or she wanted to sexually abuse you. You had no prior knowledge of what was going to be done to you.

Remember that the shame has been implanted in you by the abuser. There are two reasons for this: first, that is how s/he got their pleasure; by making you feel ashamed. Second, that is how s/he hoped to keep you from reporting the act to someone.

No matter what the abuser said to you, it was wrong. Nothing that was said was true; everything they said was a lie to serve their own end. It made them feel good and it made them feel safe.

If the abuse is ongoing, or if it happened thirty years ago, the emotional wounds are still very real. It is never too late to start working on emotional healing.

If you recognise the difference between guilt and shame, and then isolate each of them, you can work with them as separate issues and stop confusing them, and overcome them too!

Shame is an emotion which is caused by knowing that something that has been done or said, has hurt another, and when you have been sexually abused, that shame is often taken on by the survivor, in that he feels shameful for what happened to him, and in most cases, what he was made to do.

But no matter what happened to you, you should feel no shame. Even if you have hurt others, feel no shame

No matter what has taken place until today, no matter how it affected you and others, it was simply a way of surviving and is also something that has happened, is now over and should be learned from.

Instead, why not see that what was done to you, and by you, as you grew up, was just a reaction to the circumstances, and if you had known better at the time, it wouldn't have happened, and now that you do, it shouldn't happen again, so no need to feel shameful, move on from the past and look towards the future


Shame becomes an integral negative issue left behind in a survivor's struggle for recovery, and sadly has the desired effect that abusers expect, namely to impose silence upon those they sexually abuse.

Even if you spoke out against your abuser, the shame of having been sexually abused remains with you, and hinders any form of recovery.

So lets look at the issue of shame, what is does to you, and how it can affect you in daily life, and those around you.

As a child or adult who has been sexually abused, the shame associated with sexual abuse ingrains itself into every aspect of your thoughts, actions and in-actions in life

For whatever reason, you feel ashamed for what happened to you, and blame yourself for having been abused.

  • You see the abuse as your fault, in some way, perhaps because you 'failed' to speak out, or perhaps you may have enjoyed some aspects of the abuse, the warmth, hugs or closeness that was missing in other areas of your life.

  • You see the abuse as a sign you were to blame, perhaps "giving off signals" saying "look at me, abuse me"

  • You see the abuse as a reason for living a life that resembles a life not worth living, and allow the abuse to live you life, instead of you living the life you want and deserve.

  • You see the abuse, and its after effects, as an excuse to behave badly, differently or alternatively, making sure others avoid you at all costs, but the reality is that you remain in isolation.

  • You see the abuse as something you will be never be able to overcome, and as such, don't even bother to see if it is possible, which it is.

  • You see the abuse as a way to remain locked up in your world, isolated from all around you, never letting people in, to know the real you, and to love you, as you feel unlovable, unloved, and dirty

  • You see the fact that your abuse hurt you, and if anyone enters your world again you run the risk of being hurt again, so best to avoid being hurt again

    All of the above are negative in the effects they have upon you, and all prevent any chance of change occurring, though this may seem preferable, it is no way to live, nor exist.


    So how do you move forward, leaving the feelings of shame behind, where they firmly belong?

    Start by looking at why you feel shame and what that causes you

    Here are a few pointers, but I'm sure you will find your own, as you read the list.

  • Do you feel that your body is dirty, used, abused, and feel uncomfortable living in your mind and body?

  • Do you experience dark thoughts of revenge against your abuser, and possibly your carers, for letting you down, exhausting those feelings into rage against people who do not warrant it?


    Most survivors become hyper vigilant, or in simple terms, a people watcher, making sure you stay safe at all times wherever you may be


  • Do you feel that no one could ever love you if they knew your real past, even though you may have told some of your history?

  • Do you feel unsure or confused of your sexuality, left in a vacuum of never really knowing who and what you are, or what you may want?

  • Do you find yourself looking at other men, even though the thought revolts you?

  • Do you find the thought of other men invading your thoughts to be revolting?

  • Do you go out of way to pick on men who pose a threat to you?

  • Who do you hold responsible? Hopefully not yourself

    By the way, dont blame all gay men for sexually abusing children, as most abusers identify themselves as heterosexual, and don't forget, females sexually abuse children too!


    Another, often unspoken secret, which remains invasive in our lifes, is the shame we feel about certain acts that we carried out as young kids or teenagers. One such case is that perhaps in your early teens, you engaged in sexual acts that mirrored the abuse you suffered, or perhaps had sex, or carried out sexual acts on others, and now consider yourself to be really dirty and abusive too.

    This is when male survivors feel as if they are no better than the abusers, yet they still feel pain and hurt, so that alone should prove that you're not an abuser!