Monday, December 19, 2011

Identifying Self-Blame

In this post, I will attempt to flesh out the issues for which I tend to blame myself the most in regards to my sexual assault. To recap, in my last therapy session (for a summary of this therapy session, click here), my therapist asked me to define
my experience with sexual assault upon removing self-blame and self-doubt. In order to thoroughly consider what it would be like to remove self-blame and self-doubt, I thought it might be beneficial for me to first define these components of my experience.

I blame myself for...

First and foremost, I blame myself for being drunk. I was really, really drunk. Disgustingly so. Wasted. Just that term “wasted” seems to describe someone not worthy of respect. If I wasn’t respecting myself, why did I expect someone else to? I blame myself for not protecting myself more.

I blame myself for liking and trusting him and for sticking by him although throughout the two times we dated (first in high school, then in college), he constantly ignored my boundaries, forcing me to constantly be on guard. If I already knew that I had to be on guard when I was sober, why did I trust him that night when I was so drunk? I should have seen it coming.

I blame myself for not being more intuitive, or I guess for not being better at listening to my intuitions. Deep down I knew something was off about him. I knew that there was something missing in his character. I can’t even get away with saying “deep down” because the truth is this thought had passed through conscious thought even as a high school student. Although I sensed something was off, I allowed myself to be infatuated by his unwavering confidence and politician charm.

I blame myself for being attracted to him. Had he been less attractive, I doubt that I would have overlooked his flaws so easily. I wouldn’t have put up with as much. I was infatuated by him and drawn to his confidence. I should have been more skeptical of his intentions and had my priorities better organized.

I blame myself for not understanding and accepting what happened. I was so confused. I asked him to tell me what the hell happened. It was so confusing. It all seemed so fast. I remember how quickly he left my room, not saying anything more to me. I blame myself for allowing him to run out so easily, without giving me a truthful answer. I remember staring at the door completely dumbfounded. I spent the following weeks and months playing detective, trying to figure out what the hell happened. In truth though, I think I spent more time running from the truth, trying to convince myself that he hadn’t gone against his word. Had I not been so scared of the truth, I might have been able to report him. I might not have won the case, but at least it would have been on his record in case someone reported him in the future.

I blame myself for not immediately telling my roommate what happened when she returned that night. I was so confused by what happened that when she returned to our room, I was still staring at the door. I was fully clothed, even with my shoes and socks on, and I was propped against something in our room (I think the air conditioning unit). It looked as though I was ready to go somewhere. When she asked me how my night was, instead of telling her what had happened, I asked if she wanted to go out – WANTED TO GO OUT!!! It was sometime between 2 and 4 am – there was nowhere for us to go, she replied. I don’t know why I didn’t tell her what happened, what I was feeling. Had I told her, I could have gotten the tests run then, instead of 3 days later when it was too late. Also, had I told her immediately, I don’t think that my mind would have been able to temporarily delete the part of the night I wanted to forget the most.

I blame myself for not asking more questions when the school counselor asked if I wanted to “sleep in the hospital for a few days.” It didn’t even cross my mind that she was asking me to go to the psychiatric ward. I shouldn’t have rushed to give her an answer without finding out more details. I should have spoken more clearly about what happened that night, instead of referring to it as “something really bad happened.” As my current therapist said, what I was experiencing was textbook PTSD – why hadn’t I done a better job explaining what I was experiencing? Perhaps then my treatment would have focused more heavily on helping me deal with sexual assault. Perhaps then I would not have been so heavily medicated. Perhaps I would not be dealing with this right now because I would have already put it behind me.

More on "self-doubt" to follow.


  1. I really do understand the self-blame. I am just going to remind you of something.

    When we look back at the things that happened to us it is really easy to blame ourselves because with the clarity of the knowledge we have now we can see things we could have done differently that might have prevented us from being raped. We see choices we have made and we often view them as wrong choices. However they weren't wrong choices, they might have been poor choices but not wrong choices. A poor choice is a choice that is made with inaccurate or incomplete information. If we would have had the same information then as we do now we would not have made a poor choice.

    It is inaccurate to say that we made a wrong choice back then. We was unaware of all the information needed because we aren't mind readers. We couldn't imagine that someone could treat another human the way we were treated because we would never treat someone that way. For our choice to be a wrong choice we have to knowingly be aware of a well defined set of repercussions and purposefully ignore them. We were unaware of the repercussions thus were unable to ignore them.

    Our assailants on the other hand did make the wrong choice. They knew what they were doing was wrong. If they were unaware that it was wrong they wouldn't have felt the need to manipulate us. They knowingly made the wrong choice all the time knowing that it was a wrong choice. They own the blame.

    I know that you know this already but I figured I would regurgitate it for you and me.


    Sorry for what he did to you. He was wrong.

  2. Thank you, Jaime. I really liked how you framed "wrong" versus "poor" choices.

    Also, something you wrote really stood out to me:
    "They knew what they were doing was wrong. If they were unaware that it was wrong they wouldn't have felt the need to manipulate us."
    I don't recall anyone ever making this point to me, but it makes a lot of sense. I've always struggled with "what-ifs" in regard to my assault (e.g., what if, for some crazy reason, he actually didn't realize what he was doing was wrong...what if this, what if that, what if, what if, what if, what if!), but when it boils down to it, if he didn't know what he was doing was wrong, then he would've spared me his bull sh*t manipulation. Anyway, thank you for making that point.