Children develop a sense of trust as they grow and experience the world around them. As we age, our interactions with others, as well as our personal attitude dictates to what degree we trust others. In someone who has been sexually abused, the ability to make these determinations becomes skewered. Since a high number of victims knew their perpetrators – and in many cases, the person was someone they trusted – they begin to question their ability to make this determination. It often becomes safer not to trust anyone. And even when trust is extended, there is often a questioning of whether that trust has been misplaced – or at one point it will be violated.
Lack of trust extends beyond other people. The victim often blames themselves for being so trusting and begins to question their own sense of judgment. They start to second-guess their own decision-making process. They may feel that they missed warning signs or put themselves in harm’s way or did something to cause the abuse – and victims may think this even if they were four-years-old at the time of the abuse.
It may be very hard for someone who has not been abused to understand the dynamics that take place. How could a four-year-old possibly be responsible for such a heinous act? This may surprise those who have not been abused, but often the victim doesn’t initially blame the perpetrator; they turn the pain inward and blame themselves. Therefore, if this happened to them, they must have caused it in some way. This doesn’t mean the way that some defense attorneys may portray it – the victim dressed in a sexy manner or their lifestyle put them in the situation. These things certainly don’t apply to a young child and they almost never apply even if the victim is older. No, what the victim is usually thinking is that they are somehow “bad” – unloved, unwanted, dirty – and that is why this bad thing happened to them. If there is something wrong with them, then it follows that their sense of knowing who to trust is off, too.