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  • Writer's pictureJ.L. Whitehead

Letting go of guilt

One of the biggest challenges that I faced on my journey into healing regarding the abuse that I experienced is letting go of assumed guilt. I assumed that as I got older and understood the “mechanics” of abuse, immunity from the side effects of what occurred would automatically kick in. I understood that as a child, I could not give consent to what took place. My mind hadn’t been developed enough to say to an adult “sorry, this isn’t gonna happen today.” I wish I could have because it would have saved so much unnecessary pain.

There is shared guilt between the adult who committed what we all now know is a class A felony, and the victim. At least that was true for me. I would imagine that each one of the abusers knew that they had overstepped with me and that if they were caught, they could go to jail. I’m sure that every pedophile knows this, and yet, they do what they do anyway.

The guilt that I carried wasn’t mine for me to carry just like you, assuming that you carry any guilt at all.

For one of my abusers, I sought out a relationship with him. I thought that he could replace what I had longed for but never received. He presented himself like a father figure which made me gravitate towards him even more.

When he turned his attention to me and we started doing things together…things that I thought a father and son would do, I was elated. I washed his car for and with him; and for those moments, as innocent as it all appeared, I was the happiest boy on earth. I had found someone that could fill the void of my absentee father. Sex was just a bonus not that I ever desired my father in that way. But once that line had been crossed, we could not put the genie back in the bottle. He couldn’t hand me my innocence back as if he were returning a piece of merchandise to a store because it was too big, small, tight or the wrong color. Still, innocence is innocence and I thought that I had given it to him freely. After all, when he wedged the chair under the doorknob in his bedroom, did I scream or panic? No. Why? Because I was with someone that I trusted. He wouldn’t hurt me. He was my protector. He was the father figure that was missing in my life. My silence was bought and paid for with the memories of he and I having a suds and water fight over washing his car.

I shared the guilt with him because I felt like I wanted the abuse to happen. I shared the guilt with him because I did not, nor would I ever tell anyone about the abuse…including my mother who had her suspicions about this man to begin with.

I carried that guilt into my adulthood. I let that guilt bend and shape me; allowing it to fester and grow until it overtook me. It made me feel ugly when I was anything but. I had no self confidence and found it difficult to socialize correctly, even when it seemed like I was sure of myself. And the sex thing always got in the way when it came to other boys. This piggybacked its way into my mid 30’s. The door was opened to manipulation, both by me and by people I trusted. It was opened for promiscuity, alcoholism, as well as too many behaviors that I am not proud of.

And then something happened. For the next twenty years, I slowly let go of the things and activities that would destroy me. And when I let go of enough of those self-destructing behaviors, someone entered my life that would change everything that I would come to know about abuse.

Now, I don’t know what your circumstance is. I don’t know your story. But I know that some of us…many of us assume guilt that isn’t ours to assume. We think that we are at fault. We believe that we are to blame because we participated in our abuse, willingly or not. We may have received punishment while the abuser gets an unearned pass.

Some of you carry the guilt in fear. I know that fear all too well. And maybe that’s why I held onto the guilt for so long.

But guilt, like any type of weight, when held for a long period of time will make you weary. You get tired. I know I did.

So, if this is you, what are you going to do about it? Do you think you will be able to give yourself a moment of well-deserved clarity to understand that you are not to blame for whatever happened. Guilt is heavy. And it will not get any lighter or easier. One day, you’re going to have to face yourself and put down the weight of guilt. It cannot and should not be shared.

Remember…as a child, you cannot give consent.

~ J.L. Whitehead

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