The road ahead for those who long remain in the role of sexual abuse victim is long and hard, and is usually accompanied by increasingly heavy loads of guilt and feelings of rottenness. Victoria Kepler (One in Four, 1984) has outlined several increasingly heavy levels of possible guilt. Knowing that these unfolding levels of shared phenomenon with many victims may bring comfort and reassurance to those who feel the “worst of the worst.”
She calls her first level “Damaged Goods,” and relates to the victim’s belief that she must have done something to cause the abuse. The second level is the “whore phase,” and occurs when the victim becomes aware of feeling some pleasure from the abuse.
A further level of guilt is the “fair game” phase, when she is further abused by another (who possibly has heard of her earlier abuse).
If the sexual abuse continues, a fourth level of guilt is the “switch phase,” more prevalent among older victims who have been engaged in ongoing sexual abuse by an adult. When the “switch” occurs, the victim realizes that she can benefit from the abuse by bargaining for special favors.
In the fifth level, or “know better” phase [which Kepler later inserted into the list] a victim revisits the web of her abuser, resulting in further abuse of her or her children.*
Finally, the “Crossover” phase occurs if the victim should begin to molest others. Feelings of guilt from crossing over the line is considered appropriate (and referred to as “cognitive dysphoria” by Linda Sanford).
(The above photo used by permission of Faisal Jawaid. The text reprinted from Fallout: A Survivor Talks to Incest Offenders, by Nan Mykel, 2014.)
*(Incidentally, it is my experience that a victim is more likely to report incest when the family member –usually the father–molests her child, not earlier when she was abused).