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General societal prescriptions also reinforce self-blame in survivors. Westerlund (1983) listed three attitudes of society that contribute to the self-blame of the female survivor: females 'incite' male sexual behaviors; 'boys will be boys'; and it is the responsibility of females to control male sexuality. One participant in the incest healing study (Draucker, 1992) stated:
Your parents teach you that you are responsible if you get pregnant or if you have sex with a boy. You are the one that's responsible, you're the one that's in control of the situation and, you know, if your dad's taking advantage of you, you are responsible.
Often, survivors as children had received direct messages from the offender that they were to blame for the abuse (e.g. the abuse was a punishment for being 'bad'). Survivors might also have received blaming messages from significant others. Many survivors relate experiences of being punished for their 'naughty' behavior when they disclosed the abuse. Undoubtedly, incestuous family dynamics, as outlined by Gelinas (1983), would also reinforce their self-blame. Due to the process of parentification, incest survivors learned to assume responsibility for the feelings, needs, and behaviors of others. Male survivors often blame themselves, not necessarily for instigating the abuse, but for failing to protect themselves against the offender (Struve, 1990). This often results in internalized anger or compensatory behaviors to regain control (e.g. aggression, exaggerated masculine behaviors). These beliefs are rooted in societal prescriptions that males are not victims and should be powerful enough to protect themselves from the intrusion and aggression of others.
Reframing the attribution of blame from an adult perspective involves survivors coming to accept that the offender, not themselves, was responsible for the abusive sexual activity. This is true regardless of the 'engagement strategies' (e.g. threat, bribery, force, 'brainwashing') employed by the offender (Sgroi and Bunk, 1988). Children, by virtue of their stage of psychosocial and cognitive development and their dependent position within the family structure, are unable to make a free choice regarding involvement in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of the adult, or the more powerful other, to resist engaging in exploitative sexual activities with the child, regardless of the child's behavior.
of Attention and Affection
Kept the Secret
at the time it never occurred to me to tell anybody. I didn't know who to tell,
I didn't know how to tell, I didn't know what the consequences of telling would
have been, I just wanted it to stop. But it never occurred to me to tell. That
given the way I was raised in the household, no, I wouldn't have told. I just
wouldn't have. Again, that's me being a normal little kid if you will.
Reflection Exercise #8
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