IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!
It’s all your fault. That black eye? It’s all your fault. He has a drinking problem? It’s all your fault. After all, that is what he tells you, time and time again—right? If you’d just keep your mouth shut and not talk back, you would not get hit or called the worst of names. You tried to speak out, and as a result, the bruises are on your arm. It’s all your fault. You should have stayed quiet. The old saying is, “You were just adding fuel to the fire.” I mean, you know he has a terrible temper. You know his possible reactions. So why risk the results of his ire by asking him to stop yelling in front of the children? You know better. You know it will only make matters worse. It’s all your fault.
By now, I hope you realize that first paragraph was all tongue-in-cheek, intentional sarcasm. If I had a dollar for every time I was told, “It’s all your fault,” I’d be a very wealthy woman.
The first time I heard, “It’s all your fault,” I was a mere eight years old. I had just been fondled by an extended family member—the golden child who would always be believed over me, in spite of the age difference. I could not tell anyone what he had just done. If I did, he made it very clear he’d tell them it was all my fault. And for seven more years I was told, “It’s all your fault.” For the life of me, I could not fathom then, nor now, how someone may actually believe that an innocent naïve 8-year-old little girl could have concocted such behavior or actions as those he perpetrated upon my body. I just knew if I told, it would be all my fault that the family was torn apart, or the church would split, or the small community where we lived would be ruined. I had no idea the power I wielded (again, sarcasm…). So, I grew up hearing, “It’s all your fault.” I was to blame for his perversion and sick mind.
Then came marriage… What else could be my fault? I would be told I “drove” him to drink. I “made” him verbally abuse me. I “deserved” what I got. For 16 years it was as if I was living through an ongoing out-of-body experience. Every day was spent walking on eggshells. I reached a point where I could not take it any longer, and managed to talk my doctor into prescribing narcotics to “help take the edge off your nerves.” Back in the 70s the general diagnosis for all women was “nerves.” Nobody ever asked how things were at home. Stress and heart disease were never mentioned in women during the 70s or 80s, and it was not until the 90s they started being truly and seriously considered. On Friday the 13th in 1996, I had a heart attack. I had been divorced for nearly 11 years. Only recently was I contacted by a local news reporter for an interview. She wanted to talk to me about the CDC reports that reflect women who were sexually abused as young girls, or who endured domestic abuse in earlier years are at a 45%-62% higher risk of suffering from heart disease. There are some who would even now say, “It’s all your fault. Why didn’t you just leave? Why didn’t you just get away from the situation?” An old Indian saying mentions walking a mile in my moccasins before you try to judge me. I’m just saying…
For whatever reason you stay, or go, please know this: Unless you’re the mother raising a toddler, the behavior of one person cannot be controlled by another. (For those who know toddlers, even in that situation, it’s questionable). Behavior is a choice. Actions and reactions are choices. Whenever you hear, “It’s all your fault,” please realize it is not all your fault. It is your life, and it is your choices. If you decide to leave, be sure to do it in a safe manner. Develop a safety plan in advance. Need help to get away? Do not hesitate to seek it. Go to the Victim Support Page on this site and find a link, call a hotline. You can do it. You have the right to a happy and fulfilling life. Don’t ever think differently.
Carolyn S. Hennecy recently received a certificate as Designated Victim Services Practitioner through completion of a 40-hour course conducted by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Florida. She is recognized nationally as an expert survivor spokesperson on domestic/intimate partner abuse and violence, sexual assault and child molestation and abuse.