If you are a victim of abuse, you are not responsible for what happened. It does not matter where you were, what you said or did, what you were wearing, or what happened beforehand. Speaking to victims of abuse, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “I solemnly testify that when another’s acts of violence … hurt you terribly, against your will, you are not responsible and you must not feel guilty” (“Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse,” Ensign, May 1992).
It Is Not Your Fault
While others may have tried to reassure you that the abuse is not your fault, it is still common to believe you are at fault for what has happened.
Some reasons victims may feel at fault include the following:
- They have been accused of lying.
- They were told the abuse was their fault.
- They think they could have or should have stopped it.
- The offender was manipulative.
- The offender made it seem the abuse was wanted or triggered by the victim.
- They feel they did something to encourage it.
- They thought the behavior was normal.
- They didn’t know that what was happening was abuse.
- They were led to believe that they must repent, as if they had somehow sinned by being abused.
No matter what you may feel or what you have been told, you are not to blame for the actions of others.
You Are Not Responsible
In situations of abuse, the offender has used his or her agency to hurt you. You are not responsible for a choice made by someone else.
In a Brigham Young University devotional address, Professor Benjamin M. Ogles gave the following analogy:
“Some wonder if they did something wrong to deserve this circumstance. Some question their own behavior and wonder if they did something to encourage the other person to ignore their wishes—as if they somehow invited this behavior. Especially if they made other decisions around the time of the incident that they now see as questionable, they may think they are somehow partially responsible for what happened to them. But you are not responsible for that to which you did not consent! That is the essence of agency.
“Let me illustrate with a personal experience. In 1990 our family moved to a very small community in southeast Ohio called The Plains. On the first night, someone broke into our car and took everything they wanted to keep. When I discovered the theft, several thoughts came immediately to mind:
“‘If I had only parked closer to the house and away from the street.’
“‘It’s my own fault; I should have locked the car doors.’
“‘How naïve of me to think we were safe just because this is a small, rural town.’
“‘If I had been more alert, I could have prevented this from happening.’
“Do you see how I took responsibility for a crime committed by someone else? No matter where I had parked, how naïve I had been, or whether I had locked the doors or not, no one has the right to take things from my car without my permission. I was not responsible for the theft. Yet I automatically took the blame because I could imagine things that I thought I should have done differently” (“Agency, Accountability, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ: Application to Sexual Assault” [Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 30, 2018], 5–6, speeches.byu.edu).
In the Book of Mormon we learn, “Whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free” (Helaman 14:30; italics added).
If you are a victim of abuse, it is not your fault. You are not to blame for the actions of others, regardless of the circumstances, and healing is possible through the Savior Jesus Christ.
Community and Church Resources
(Some of the resources listed below are not created, maintained, or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While these materials are intended to serve as additional resources, the Church does not endorse any content that is not in keeping with its doctrines and teachings.)
- “It’s Never Your Fault: The Truth about Sexual Abuse,” National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- “It Wasn’t Your Fault,” National Association for People Abused in Childhood
- “Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse,” Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May 1992
- “Agency, Accountability, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ: Application to Sexual Assault,” Benjamin M. Ogles (Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 30, 2018)
- “Why Childhood Sexual Abuse Can NEVER Be Your Fault,” Pandora’s Project: support and resources for survivors of rape and sexual abuse