In The Guilt of Sexual Abuse we looked at the issue of guilt and how it is such a common phenomena as to be almost expected after an incident of sexual assault. Today we will look at the anger associated with this insidious crime.
Anger and guilt are the flip sides of the coin of sexual abuse. They are the daily currency for many victims of sexual crimes. But while guilt often appears soon after the abusive incident, anger can take much longer to come to the surface.
Guilt, that is, taking responsibility for the abuse upon yourself rather than the perpetrator, can sometimes be all consuming. Recovery stalls because the victim of sexual crime believes that they somehow contributed in a very significant way to the incident.
Guilt is a powerful emotion that needs to be dealt with before any significant recovery can take place. I have worked with clients who have been carrying the guilt of their assault around with them for twenty or thirty years or even more. Looking at the root cause of this guilt is my first priority in getting a client back on track.
However, in defusing the guilt that is part and parcel of having been sexually abused, we next have to deal with the anger and rage that then comes to the fore. Of course, this anger has already been in existence the entire time, but depending on the strength of the guilt, it may have been well held in check.
Alternatively, the anger associated with sexual assault may come out in a diffuse form, directed at everybody, including loved ones and the world in general. When the anger is unfocused, that is, it is not directed at the root cause (i.e. the person who committed the assault) it can be aimed at all and sundry. It can also be quite destructive, as the person struggles with their rage at the violation they have suffered but feels unable to do anything constructive with that rage.
Family relationships can break down at this point as the victim of abuse cannot control this undirected rage. Workplace relations can also be strained. Marriages can fall apart. The fallout of sexual abuse can be enormous.
In our next article, we will look at techniques to deal with the anger surrounding sexual abuse.
Contact Beth McHugh for further information or assistance regarding this issue.