Apparently this is common in people who have experienced traumatic events. I have certainly heard of it in relation to soldiers who have survived war when their comrades did not. Yet it seems less talked about in survivors of rape and abuse. I cannot be the only one to experience this in some form, even if the reasons behind it differ?
Rape and abuse survivors experience so much guilt, it seems to be something almost all survivors have or will go through. Guilt that we didn’t fight back, or didn’t make it clear that it was unwanted, guilt over what we said, or did, where it happened and who was involved, etc. We certainly don’t need any other sources of guilt to contend with.
I no longer struggle with the guilt in the way I used to, at least not with the aspects of abuse we have and are discussing in therapy right now, but survivor’s guilt- if that is the most appropriate term, is something I continue to struggle with.
Today, for example, it hit pretty hard. I was overcome with emotion after observing and feeling the pain of another survivor. I left the room to cry for her- tears for her came so easily.
I see her daily, but today her suffering was more evident than ever. Without going into specifics (because her story is not mine to tell) she needs money, that she just doesn’t have and is unlikely to have in the near future.
Watching her today left me feeling utterly ashamed of myself and twisted up inside with guilt. I wanted to help her, to give her the money she needs, to be there for her, to do something- anything.
Why? I feel guilty that I am OK, that I can afford therapy, that I can afford to buy what I need (within reason) to make things better for me. I feel guilty that I have moved forward and away from my abuser and I am getting further from the grips of his grooming and control every single day.
I was ashamed of myself today too and I am not even sure why- as part of the guilt perhaps?
These are not new feelings, so often lately I feel responsible for other survivors. I want to help, I want them to experience healing, I want them to be safe. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense- but I feel guilty for being safe, I feel guilty for healing. While at the same time I know being in danger, or by remaining unwell, I cannot possibly help anyone else.
I know the rational arguments, I know what I should feel and why- yet this survivor’s guilt, remains. I know I deserve to heal, I know that I cannot help anyone if I do not help myself first, I know I did not abuse her or anyone else and cause suffering. I do not control the actions of others. Yet, I cannot help but feel responsible and guilty. Am I alone with this?