The Not Destroyed Family

How to fight shame

Shame doesn’t live in our house — especially concerning the sexual abuse that my children endured.

To battle shame, you must first name it as the enemy and imagine it as a smelly, loud, rude and abusive person at the door. The only way you can’t let SHAME move in to your home is simple – you don’t invite it in.

The problem is, nearly everyone invites shame into their home, into their minds and their hearts and their lives. What’s truly horrifying is when we  invite it into our children’s minds, hearts and lives and that generation passes it to the next and the next and the next…. And this shame is what cripples our children. This shame is what must be fought.  

How does it gain entry?  With simple words and phrases we pass down to “train” our children.  

“We don’t talk about that.”

“Aren’t you ready to be normal again?”

“Let’s get life back to normal.”

“We don’t have to tell anyone. I don’t want you to feel embarrassed/be bullied/feel left out/be judged.”

“What do you mean, you want to see X, after what he did? Are you saying you liked it?”

“Why didn’t you tell me? Didn’t you want it to stop?”

“The only reason you’d ever want to go back to that X is what? To do what we caught you doing? (acting out) What’s wrong with you?  Do you like that stuff?”

I could give you a thousand phrases, sentences and conversations to avoid, but the truth is you won’t succeed unless you change your heart position. Your child can feel your judgment, fear and shame unless you rid yourself of it first.  To do so, you have to genuinely believe the following statements:

  • My children didn’t ask for it, didn’t want it and need to be free of this behavior they engaged in, even if they solicited it after being introduced to it, even if they still want to see and have a relationship with the abuser(s) and even if they have acted out or are continuing to seek opportunities to act out.  I know they’re processing information too big for them to handle and this is how they’re attempting to handle it.  BUT if I continue to show up and provide a safe space, that safe space will grow and grow to fill up their emotional needs until they can heal enough to no longer seek it. I also know it could take years. I’m going to show UP so shame doesn’t show UP for me!
  • My children’s doors have been wrenched open by knowledge they weren’t ready for, which inevitably leads to two things: 1. Acting out sexually or violently or both, OR 2. Acting in with depression or anxiety or both.  The only hope my child has is for me to stand strong and firm against any opportunities to accumulate more information or act out what they’ve learned. I am going to break the cycle.
  • My children have no more reason to be ashamed than if they were beat up by a criminal. Their bruises may be hidden, but they’re nothing to be ashamed of. I know making those bruises as much a part of our regular conversation as possible will take away the toxic internal shame. I know the only way those bruises grow is if they’re hidden. I know bringing them into the sun will heal them.  
  • My children will never feel shame if I don’t teach it to them. When the very idea of hiding what happened comes up, I will acknowledge their concern but move on. I will not give it weight because as soon as it feels heavy, the shame will grow. I refuse to let shame move into my home. I refuse to let shame invade my child’s heart, mind and life. I get to decide this. I will not teach it to my child


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