Adult responsibility and comprehension does not descend easily or magically, but is learned from the memories and patterns – and distortions – of childhood. Many a survivor has visited us accepting the arguments above, that a child is not responsible for being abused. But how far along their graduation into adulthood can they sustain that belief? Many will have difficulty in believing that stopping the abuse was, by then, out of their control. Once it has commenced, abuse will usually continue until the child him/herself instigates its end.
This gives rise to a further, more complex guilt, because although many adults can accept that as a child they were not responsible for being abused, it is less easy to understand why they ‘let’ it continue into adolescence, and even adulthood. But the grooming will again be paying dividends to the abuser. The carefully cultivated threat that the child is responsible for the abuse, will be reinforced by the further threat that they will also be responsible for the repercussions of disclosing their ‘secret’.
The feared break-up of one’s family stability, the loss of security, and incurring the responsibility for the pain caused to others, is a most foreboding deterrent to breaking the established cycle, – and the abuser knows it! There is also, of course, the fact that much of the physical and sexual contact may, as a child matures, awaken the natural curiosity of puberty. It is natural for a child at this stage of life to be curious about the changes that are occurring to its body, but for a child who is being abused, this exploration will become inextricably linked with and tainted by the abuse.