Child Abuse: Dispelling 6 Myths About Self Blame

by Darlene Barriere - Webmaster
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)

ADOPTED from August 2007 issue Barriere Bits E-zine

ADOPTED from August 2007 issue Barriere Bits E-zine

The following are statements I receive from abuse victims, both children and adults, almost every day through my website. I'm addressing them here in an effort to dispel some myths about self-blame.

  1. I deserved to be beaten because I mouthed off after doing something I knew was wrong.

    Nothing you said or did warranted being physically abused. It was up to the adult to keep his or her anger in check.

    It wasn't your fault

  2. If I had been a better daughter (son), my mother (father) would have loved me and treated me better.

    A parent's love should be—must be—unconditional. If a parent's love isn't unconditional, it is the parent that is to blame, not the child.

  3. It wasn't your fault

  4. I let the abuse go on.

    You were powerless to stop the abuse. You were the child. The adult had ALL the power.

  5. It wasn't your fault

  6. I was a willing participant.

    You "submitted" in order to protect yourself or one of your siblings, but that doesn't mean you were a "willing" participant in the sexual abuse. You did what you had to do to prevent further violence or pain. You were powerless to stop the abuse. You were the child. Your offender had ALL the power.

  7. It wasn't your fault

  8. It felt good, so it couldn't be sexual abuse.

    Sexual stimulation does feel good, but that has nothing to do with whether or not you were sexually molested. The definition of sexual abuse is when an adult, a youth or an older child (more than 2 years older) uses a child for his or her own sexual gratification. Sometimes the body betrays: It is perfectly natural for a young male to achieve an erection when he is anxious, scared or nervous. This is called "involuntary sexual arousal." It is also perfectly natural for a male to reach an orgasm, even when he is being sexually assaulted. Although less common than males, it is not uncommon for females to experience an orgasm during a sexual assault. Even if it "felt good," you were sexually abused.

  9. It wasn't your fault

  10. I can't believe I was so stupid to not tell someone.

    You weren't stupid, you were afraid. You were afraid of not being believed. You were afraid of the repercussions.

  11. It wasn't your fault
Whether you are a child still being abused, or an adult dealing with the long-term effects of child abuse, do not for one more second blame yourself. You were not to blame. You are not to blame.

It Wasn't Your Fault!


IT . . . WASN'T . . . YOUR . . . FAULT!

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Comments for Child Abuse: Dispelling 6 Myths About Self Blame

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Jul 23, 2008
Thank you
by: Anonymous

This is the dozenth (is that even a word?) time I've come to this article. I;m so glad you posted it darlene. I come back to it over and over again to help me remember that what happned to me really wasn't my fault. Thank you for making it easy for me to keep telling myself that.

Jul 23, 2008
To Anonymous:
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

You are so welcome. I thank YOU for taking the time to share how this article has helped you. I can only hope that others have been helped in much the same way.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Feb 22, 2009
by: Anonymous

Thanks for the advice. It's still hard for me to accept that I wasn't at fault because my parents always told me and continue to tell me that everything they did was my fault; I hate that they blame me for their marital, communication problems, their abusive, difficult childhoods, and say that I'm controlling them and doing whatever I want because I try to distance myself from them. I don't understand why they think shouting, grabbing, swearing, threatening, etc. is okay; I hate that they don't respect me and never have, as though I'm a dog.

From Darlene: I'm so glad this article helped you, Anonymous. Family members who are troubled are often troublesome to other family members; your family could learn much from you. I wish you all the best.

A Video Reading by Darlene Barriere
Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Apr 10, 2009
was I PARTLY to blame?
by: Anonymous

I'm confused and have been for 20 years now.
When I was 8, my fathers friend started 'playing' with me. He would make me lie down next to him and we'd play.
I don't remember being forced to do it.
Then a couple of years later another man used to do it when we all visited his family. I don't remember how that started but just remember being 12 and in the bathroom with him asking if he could stuff

I have never talked about this and it disgusts me that I let this all happen.

I googled the words 'child abuse blame' and found you.

I still believe it was my fault, but your words are making me think for the first time..thank you

From Darlene: You're welcome, Anonymous. Child abuse is NEVER the child's fault. EVER. Keep telling yourself the words: It wasn't my fault. Eventually you will come to believe them.

A Video Reading by Darlene Barriere
Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Mar 03, 2010
by: rebeka

I was sexually abused and for a long time I blamed myself for alot of the reasons that you addressed on your page. I am writing a paper and I had a question about another kind of blame. Can you explain to me why some abuse victims blame the non-affending parent for the abuse even though they didnt know that the abuse was going on?

Aug 09, 2010
blaming a parent or yourself
by: Anonymous

i blamed myself, and others blamed me. they said that i must have been a really bad child to be beaten everyday. the beatings started when i was just 4. even then i lied to my mother and said i fell off a slide. she knew and did nothing. she was even there at times and did nothing. i have hated her for a long time as she chose to stay with him as it was better for her than to support 5 children alone.
when i was 19, i called the police whilst he was punching my sister in the back. my mum was helped to leave with my younger siblings. i ended up living on my own in a bed sit.
it was not my fault that she brought this man in our home and did nothing to protect us. i became the adult in the end and stepped in to protect my siblings.
i blame both my mum and step-dad... they were adults and had choices. my mum was not powerless, she chose to give him her power. i challenged my abusive partner and he finally left. my children are alive because i chose to have them. it is up to me to protect them too.

thanks for reminding me that it was not my fault.

Jan 05, 2011
Brother accusing mother for the sexual abuse from his hockey coach
by: Anonymous

Hello everyone,I have a desperate question. My brother was sexually abused once when he was 11 yrs old from his hockey coach. He was a family friend for 5 years and it happened at the beginning of their friendship. Five years later my brother had told my mother where now the molester was arrested and is in jail. However, my brother blames my mother for the abuse more than than the actual molester. He believes my mother had let this happen. And I believe its so hurtful to make such an accusation because the whole family was so shocked to hear this happened. How can we make our brother believe it was the molesters full fault not my mothers?

Feb 20, 2011
Blaming the non-offending mother
by: Anonymous

I'm the non-offending mother. My stepfather sexually abused both my daughters and I had no idea AT ALL until my mother discovered him messing with a little girl many years later. She called the police and we both spoke to my grown daughters to discover the truth. My son was sexually abused by a youth leader at our church. Again, I never knew anything about this until my son told me when he was 24. I tried to find the man responsible but no one could remember his name and we had since moved to another part of the country. My children have spoken among themselves and all three of them decided I knew about it and condoned it. Our relationships are destroyed and they refuse to believe my side of the story, no matter how many other family members tell them the truth as well. I am beside myself. My children are now in their early 40s and we never even see one another. My heart is breaking for them.

Dec 09, 2011
by: Anonymous

why does my family treat me like i am the one who has done something wrong when i was the child who was abused?

Mar 08, 2012
re: help by Anonymous
by: Anonymous

you were the family SCAPEGOAT. let me guess, you couldn't do anything right (you were always in for it), even when you tried your hardest to "be good", petty and ridiculous reasons to abuse you were given, or actually MADE UP. you were the family outlet for tension. but there had to be just one, YOU had to be the "common denominator", so that it would indeed look like YOU were the catalyst to conflict, not the abuser(s), THEY WERE TOO COWARDLY TO FACE UP TO THAT. if the abuser admitted "EVERYTHING makes me so angry", it wouldn't take any audience too long to recognize that they had an ANGER MANAGEMENT problem. the way round that is to blame the fewest number of sources possible - so that this would not be recognised as a problem they experienced with life and people in general - preferably just one, you. the others were happy to join in blaming you, so that you would get the abuse, you were sacrificed by your whole family because it was easier to offer a sacrificial punching bag than try to stand up to this thug. they blamed you out of fear of the abuser. agreeing that you were the problem was what the abuser wanted to hear, it GAINED FAVOR with the bully, by salving their ego, and reassuring them that they were under no threat of judgement. THEY GAVE THE ABUSER PERMISSION TO ABUSE YOU TO SAVE THEIR OWN ASSES! THAT'S WHY!

Jan 16, 2014
it didn't help to tell someone
by: Adult survivor of abuse

I'm in my 50's now and when I was a child and tried to tell teachers, a counselor, a minister, and other people that I was being abused, I was told to stop blaming other people for my problems. I was told that my parents must love me because I was CHOSEN (I' m adopted)and people do not spend money and effort on a child they hate. I was told that I was spoiled and worthless. It seemed like everywhere I turned I was somehow abused. Now, today my family has disowned me for reasons I don't even know. I have serious issues with depression and I seem to have a complete inability to be close to another person.

Sep 12, 2014
Parent and Sibling Abuse
by: Anonymous

I have a question. I keep blaming myself for my childhood mistakes. I was a bully, because I had a really dysfunctional family: a workaholic mom, a dad that slept all the time, and a sibling that would hit me just because I constantly instigated him. And, me, who happens to self-abuse himself for years on end or in my mom's words 'So, I could get out of punishment.'

Maybe, it's my fault for what happened. No, it was my fault! Even though, I was born with a mild case of autism and depression. Why is so hard to function normally in a household where pretty much everybody has something wrong with them.

I still blame myself, even though my mom doesn't hold me accountable. Maybe, I am 'doing this to get attention.'

There I go with my endless cycle of pessimistic thinking.

From Darlene - Webmaster: You must ask yourself why it's so important that you blame yourself. Why you feel the need to punish yourself in this way. I can tell you that you're not to blame (and you're not) and so can a multitude of others, including your mother, but as long a YOU don't believe it then you will always tell yourself a different story; that you are to blame. Whenever we feel the need to blame ourselves, it's because we feel some kind of guilt. Look at things with a different set of eyes. You were a child. A vulnerable child. Right now, you are applying adult values to what you did as a child. That's just not fair. As children we all make choices we aren't very proud of. When we begin to grow up and mature, and as we move into the various ages and stages of adulthood, it's easy to look back and judge ourselves based on where we are in that more self-aware moment. But that's not where we were when we did whatever it was that we did. So give yourself a break. Your perspective is coming from a highly judgmental more mature person. Try being compassionate with your younger self. The younger self that did whatever it was that you did. Because to do anything else is to give yourself a life sentence. And you certainly don't deserve that. If we are guilty of doing something wrong, then the prudent thing to do is either make it right or make amends in some way, depending on what wrong was done and how long ago it happened. It NEVER includes a self-imposed sentence of life imprisonment. I send you love, light and healing energy.

From Victim to Victory, a memoir
Darlene Barriere
author. speaker. survivor. coach
From Victim to Victory, a memoir

Aug 05, 2015
My poor child
by: Anonymous

My son cried out abuse. I reported it and took all the legal steps asked of me. Sadly my mother in law started the family attacking me to the investigator. They all lied about me and my credibility to distract the real problem at hand. Sadly it worked. The investigator didn't follow up with me or anyone else who knew me and loved me. Fast forward 8 months later. The whole thing has been dismissed. My ex and his mom tried to take my boys away. We have joint custody which I hate because when they are with dad and grandma they are taking him around the abuser because my son only told me and the police and cpa and forensic nurses but not dad and grandma. So they believe im lying nothing happened and my child is still being abused and even the law won't help. Who is to blame now. My child asked mommy why are you letting him hurt me. I just want to grab my kids and run and hide. This is the worst outcome of reporting the abuse and the have failed my child.

Aug 14, 2016
by: Anonymous

The thing that's really bothering me now, 16 years after the abuse stopped and 15 years of being married, my husband blames me for allowing it to happen. It lasted 8 years, from age 9-17. He said I should have known better. I'm at a loss as to what to even feel. I'm so shattered.

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