Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
One of the incongruities regarding the violent crimes of rape and molestation is that the victim ends up feeling guilty and ashamed, while the perpetrator, unless they are caught, does not suffer at all. During the years of my private practice I worked with many women who were raped or molested when they were children or adults. The emotional harm done to their self pride, dignity and sense of integrity is incalculable. In my experience, most kept this sexual violation secret from both family and friends. They lived in fear that, if found out, they would be judged and rejected. All believed that, in one way or another, they were responsible for what was done to them.
Here is a portion of an Email sent to me that is typical of the kind of wounds suffered:
“Am I Permanently Damaged?
I was molested by a neighbor when I was 12 yrs old. I lived with the burden alone for almost 2 yrs when I
confided in a close friend. By the time I told my parents I was suicidal.
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I made numerous bad choices afterward. My parents didn’t pursue the issue legally or personally. The man was never confronted. I have suffered with self esteem issues ever since…”
The self perceived need for secrecy only increases the feelings of being defiled and violated. It also fosters a sense of being alone with their secret. This woman finally told her parents when she was fourteen- years-old but they did nothing to help her nor did they take action against the neighbor. Sadly, this happens all too often with the result that the need for secrecy is confirmed and reinforced.
In many cases, it took my patients a long time before they were able to reveal the secret they harbored for so many years. In fact, most admitted that they were determined never to tell me. They were seeking psychotherapy for depression and problems in their marriages. However, after they realized that they were able to trust and feel safe with me, they were able to release the dark secret with great emotion. In all cases, there was a feeling of wonderment and relief that I, in no way, was judgmental or rejecting. I always found it interesting that even though they could trust me, opening up the secret still filled them with terror.
From that point on, intensive supportive psychotherapy focused on what they were thinking and feeling in the present, and gradually helped them begin to give up the guilt and feelings of self hate so that they could more fully enjoy their relationships. Their sense of dignity and self respect was largely restored and the need for secrecy was brought to an end. Finally they accepted the fact that anyone who judges them is not worth their time.
The major theme of this blog is to underline the fact that people need not feel scarred or damaged by the outrageous crime committed against them. People who have been molested and/or raped are not guilty of anything and have nothing to feel ashamed of.
If this happened to you, here are several options that you can take advantage of to get help:
1. There are many self help support groups made up of other survivors of thess crimes. Do a Google search for such groups in your area.
2. It’s important to find a therapist who works in and has experience in this area and who has a good reputation.
3. As an adjunct, not as an alternative, we have an online support group here at Mental Help.Net that you are welcome to sign on to. There is no cost and your privacy is assured.
Regardless of how you do it, act now and don’t wait.
Remember, you are guilty of nothing and have done nothing to be ashamed of. It is fully possible to recover your dignity and self respect and not feel damaged by this. As the old saying goes, “The best revenge is success.”
It is important to state that the road to healing is gradual but steady. Be patient and kind to yourself.
One final but crucial note:
Boys and men are also victimized by this crime. It is a mistake to think that women are the only ones who go through this. I have worked with men who were attacked when they were boys. Help is available for them as well.
Your questions and comments are welcome.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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