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One: It is not your Fault | Two: What you can do Different

Author: Tsara Shelton
Author Contact: @TsaraShelton on Twitter
Published: 2nd Apr 2022 - Updated: 6th Sep 2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: LGBTQ Stories - Mainstream Publications

Summary: Sexual Assault is not the victim's fault but we can still learn ways to live safer.

Main Document

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. I wrote this essay several years ago after talking with my son's girldfriend about ways in which we can protect ourselves from sexual assault. We were clear that rape and abuse are not the victim's fault, but also realized we don't talk thoughtfully enough about the less clear areas where victims can make safer choices. In the interest of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention, I chose to reprint this article here.


When a child is molested or an adult is raped they are told rightfully it's not their fault. They are not to blame for the abuse.

It is less common to also, in time, point out what they could do different so that it's less likely to happen again. It's in this place many of us survivors of sexual abuse are let down and harm ourselves even further. Because if it isn't our fault, but there are no steps we can take to avoid it happening again, then the world is dangerous and unpredictable. And it has chosen to hurt us specifically. And, as happens all too often, the victim makes poor choices over and over and is abused further until it seems obvious to them they must be to blame.

My step-dad (who we all called dad) molested me when I was twelve. I knew it wasn't my fault, and I knew if I told my mom she would not only believe me but would also make it stop. But I also felt like telling my mom would mean ruining our family, and that a strong woman could keep her mouth shut. I mention this because no matter how sincerely you tell a victim they are not to blame, they'll find something to feel responsible for so it's important to give them more. After my dad came into my room a second time I knew I wouldn't be able to handle life in our home if I didn't tell my mom.

Plus, by then I'd started to see other things he was doing inappropriately, even outside of the midnight molesting. It took some time and an unlikely opening (my mom told me I needed to keep my room cleaner and so I yelled at her, "Well maybe if someone would stop sneaking into my room at night to touch me, I would!") but I did disclose the happening, and she did believe me. She also made it stop and we spent years learning about the cycle of abuse.

After telling my mom our lives did change. For my mom it meant taking care of eight kids (six adopted, four on the spectrum of autism) by herself, but with a freedom to learn and teach and become who she'd always wanted to be. Life was much better, but also harder. Learning what you could have done differently is important, but it hurts. Because before you knew, you made dangerous choices. My molestation wasn't my fault, and it also wasn't my mom's fault, but we both could have made choices that would have kept it from happening.

This is what we are afraid to tell victims, because it sounds dangerously like blame. But it's not blame, it's knowledge and power. And if we care enough about victims then we need to be strong enough to listen, believe, and then let them hate us while we reveal what habits they can change to stay safe. In truth, it is the victim themselves who will have to discover their own habits that need changing, but a friendly push in that direction is often needed. And potentially lifesaving.

Think of it like this: you're on your way to the mall and stopped at a red light. The light turns green, you go, and some distracted driver runs the apposiing red and hits you. The accident was not your fault, but you'd be a fool not to change a habit. From now on you'll hopefully look and assess before going through the green, even though it should be perfectly safe. Possibly you'll also start wondering if it was your fault were you thinking about that purse you want to buy or the hot guy that works in the shoe department? Regardless, it was not your fault, you are right to go on green, but there are things you can do different.

Permit me to take this analogy a little bit further. The distracted driver was at fault, but would also have benefited had you looked before going on green. Perhaps the driver would have seen the red light at the last second, had a moment of panic and been grateful and aware the rest of the drive. Or not. Perhaps the driver would not have noticed or cared at all. Either way, the accident wouldn't have happened.

When I was twelve, all I had to do was tell my mom about my step-dad's lingering fingers when I was saying goodnight and he never would have got into my bed to push his fingers further. This is an almost certain truth, because my mom would have done whatever needed to be done. And if my mom had taken the steps to learn why she had been raped, molested, and beaten as a younger woman, she wouldn't have married my step-dad in the first place. This is an almost certain truth.

If you are a victim, if you know a victim (or an abuser) please speak up and out. Don't blame, but don't be afraid to see what can be done different. Be thoughtful about timing and wording, but talk about it. Listen, too. You may not be quite right either. But making safer choices is worth the time it takes and the changes everyone might need to make.

The world is full of all types of kind and cruel, and though it isn't our place to judge which is which in the lives of others, it is our place to judge for ourselves. It is our place to seek safety. We are our most important responsibility.

Victims of Sexual Assault: It's not your fault. Now discover if there's anything you should do different and take control of your healing. Take control of your happiness.

It happened, so give it a reason.

Author Credentials:

Tsara Shelton, author of Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself, is a contributing editor to

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• (APA): Tsara Shelton. (2022, April 2). One: It is not your Fault | Two: What you can do Different. Retrieved May 27, 2024 from

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