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Reinterpretating the sexual abuse experience from an adult perspective

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Survivors tend to interpret their role in the abuse from their childhood perspective, believing they were to blame for the abuse. Survivors often judge their behaviour in the abuse situation by attributing to themselves, as children, the adult resources of freedom of choice, social support, and the power of reasoning. This results in the belief that they could have controlled teh abuse. Counsellors may assist survivors to use their adult cognitive skills  to reinterpret their childhood experiences based on an understanding of their stage of development and the dynamics of the family at the time of the abuse.

Attribution of blame
 
Survivors generally believe that they were responsible for the abuse. Often, survivors as children had received direct messages from the offender that they were to blame for the abuse. Survivors might also have received blaming from significant others. Many survivors relate experiences of being punished for their 'naughty' behaviour when they disclosed the abuse. Male survivors often blame themselves, not necessarily for instigating the abuse, but for failing to protect themselves against the offender. These beliefs are rooted in societal prescriptions that males are not victims and should be powerful enought to protect themelves from the intrusion and aggrression of others.
 
Reframing the attribution of blame from an adult perspective involves survivors coming to accept tat the offender, not themselves, was responsible for the abusive sexual activity. This is true regardless of the engagement strategies employed by the offender.
 
 
Childhood sexual responsiveness
 
Many survivors responded physically with pleasure or arousal during the abuse experience, and therefore concluded that as children they enjoyed the experience. Males, who are the victims of same-sex abuse may believe that such responses represent latent homosexual desires.
 
Reframing the issue of sexual responsiveness from an adult perspective involves survivors realizing that the sensations they experienced as children were natural physiological reactions to sexual stimulation. Arousal in childhood does not indicate that the child either sought or enjoyed the sexual experience.
 
 
Why me?
 
Survivors often reach adulthood with the belief that they were singled out for the abuse because of inherent characteristics they possessed as children. This belief is especially prevalent if they were the only victim within their family.
 
Reframing the 'why me?' from an adult perspective involves survivors coming to appreciate that they were chosen as a victim, not because of any inherent personality characteristics, but because of factors related to the offender's motives or to the families dynamics.
 
 
Having kept the secret
 
Many survivors experience self-blame because they never told anyone of the abuse and therefore did not stop it. This concern is more salient if the abuse went on for a long time, if the child was older when the abuse started, if the 'engagement strategies'  did not involvethe use of force, and if the child had no role in stopping the abuse.
 
Reframing this belief from an adult perspective involves survivors considering their assumptions as children regarding the consequences of disclosure. It is also important for survivors to consider that telling others, a proactive behaviour, was simply not in their behavioural repertoire as a child.
 
 
 
 

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(Bierker, 1989)