Everybody deserves to have a rescuer, but as survivors of childhood sexual abuse or any type of abuse, often times we had no such person to save us. Or, we had people in our lives that we could have and should have been able to run too, but they were unavailable. Worse yet they may very well have been the perpetrators or persecutors themselves.
Where does that leave us as we try to heal and move forward with our lives? It leaves us with a lot of questions, resentment, self-blame, poor self-esteem, and lack of confidence to be able to face life and live the way we choose.
In doing some research lately, I’ve been diving into what is commonly known as the Karpman Drama Triangle or Persecutor-Rescuer-Victim Triangle. I worked through this exercise with a professional, because it can be very triggering.
I was recently introduced to this as a way of trying to work through the incredible amount of blame that I place on my inner child. While Rational Mind tells me that I was powerless when I was younger, and so easily influenced, it’s still a source of anxiety for me. I’m more than willing to validate any survivor and let them know that they were never, never, at fault. That fault lies solely on the perpetrator(s) who forever changed our lives before we even had a chance to get started.
For someone who’s stubborn like me; finding it very difficult to give myself a break and let my inner child off the hook, this exercise put many things into perspective for me.
As you can see in the diagram to the right, each part of the triangle is labeled: Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer. The idea is to take the struggles that you lived through either as a child, or whenever they occurred, and discuss each part of the triangle as it relates to each situation.
In my case, I deal with childhood sexual abuse, bullying, and narcissistic parenting (from my mother). So I take one at a time and rationally examine each situation to validate my innocence, and put into perspective who is really at fault.
Childhood Sexual Abuse:
- Who is the Victim – That’s me. I was the one who was groomed, influenced, and used for the sadistic pleasure of the teenager up the street all those years ago.
- Who is the Persecutor – That’s the previously mentioned teenager who did those terrible things to me.
- Who was my Rescuer – I didn’t have one. This is where it gets real. The people I should have been able to run too, were emotionally unavailable, invalidating, and never built my self-esteem up enough to feel comfortable in running to them for help and comfort. Even if I had been able to run to my parents, I was groomed and brainwashed into not sharing my secret because I was “special”.
- Who is the Victim – That’s me, again. I’m the one who was physically pushed around, punched, and had books knocked out of my hands. I was the one who called every name in the book and ridiculed for how I looked, talked, and acted.
- Who is the Persecutor – That would be everyone that I can remember who ever did anything to me. The boys and girls both who made my elementary school years and middle school years a living hell. Even a couple teachers who made fun of me during class, in front of everyone.
- Who was my Rescuer – Nobody. I tried running to my parents, but all I got was, “you’ll just have to deal with it”. The usual speeches included things like, “some kids are just mean” or “there’s nothing wrong with you”. Now and then I got “just stand up for yourself”. That one stings the most because I couldn’t! In reality, no matter what they would have said, it likely would not have done any good. The damage was already done. The self-blame was getting stronger, the shutting down inside happening quicker than I ever realized.
- Who is the Victim – Once again, me. I was the one who was invalidated for most of my growing up years until I finally moved out of the house. The effects from being bullied and abused already had a strangle hold on me, and the constant invalidation and lack of support continued to strengthen that grip.
- Who is the Persecutor – My mother, sad to say. She is the one who, although she was present physically, was emotionally never able to be there for me. “Your hair is too wild, your clothes look ridiculous, you can’t go out of the house like that, you are going to church no matter what, your music is satanic, and why in the world would you ever get all those tattoos?” As I got older and no longer lived at home, I certainly can’t forget the “you shouldn’t marry her, she’s not right for you”. “You can’t make rational decisions on your own”. “You can’t care for your kids; you need to let us have them so we can raise them properly”.
- Who was my Rescuer – I could have run to my dad, and I remember doing so, but he validated my mother in the kindest way possible. My dad is awesome; so kind and understanding and a gentle soul, but there was little he ever could do. So my rescuer here was alcohol, partying, staying out late so I wouldn’t have to come home. Basically just being a rebel who didn’t give a damn anymore. While not a healthy rescuer, it’s what I did at the time.
Wise Mind tells me that when I break each situation down like this and see how each one played out, I can see that I am validated as the victim. My inner child was a victim. The blame for those events lies solely on each Persecutor (you can also use Perpetrator instead).
This goes a long way towards helping me realize how much I need to place blame where it should go. I should be free from the guilt that I carry because none of this was my fault. Just like none of the things that you went through were your fault!
Trying to process and accept this still is not easy, but I’m making progress! I hope you are too, because you deserve to live free of the guilt you may be carrying.