I frequently get letters from across the world from people who have just realised they have been scammed. These letters often talk about the shame and guilt that they have once they realised they have been scammed. How do I reply to them? I know they write to me because they must tell their story to someone, to make sense of it for themselves, and they know I will understand.
A recent writer said
I have been sending money to woman in ..[deleted for privacy].. for ..[deleted for privacy]… I am not stupid, and I realised that this could not be the real thing, but I continued to write to her. I denied the obvious for so long time. I feel ashamed of my self. I now delete all “her” e mails, but I still feel afraid and guilt.
It is a challenge to know what to write to people in this situation. I have been there too, wondering if it is a scam, denying to myself that it is, wanting the dream that is promised so badly. But I have had a long time thinking (and writing) about it since.
I wrote back to him
sorry to hear that you have also been impacted in this way.
Feelings of shame and guilt can be very debilitating, I know. It plays on our sense of our own involvement and responsibility for what has happened.
Please take into account that you have been emotionally manipulated by experienced professionals who have led you to do things that you would not do without this manipulation. This includes you continuing to give money. It is all because of the manipulation. In this state you cannot be rational.
Put the responsibility where it really lies, with the scammers and fraudsters, not with you. You have nothing to be ashamed or guilty of.
This I know!
I hope these few words help. Also talking about it helps, so do this if you can with people you trust.
He wrote back saying that he was feeling better and starting to love and respect himself more. He also acknowledged that it might be a good idea to talk to someone….
So much is included in this interchange about the impact of being caught in these frauds
- Our trust in our “rational” self is shattered, and our self worth plummets
- We blame ourselves for what has happened
- We feel ashamed and guilty for what we have done
- We don’t know who will understand, and it is hard to find people who will
- If we don’t find the right people to talk to, we don’t
- We cannot make sense of it and love ourselves if we cannot speak the truth…
I know from my own experience that when we don’t talk, we shut down all our relating, and cannot be our true selves even with friends or family, let alone new people we might meet.
Societal attitudes continue to put the blame on us. This vortex of continued shame and blame must be broken. The only way we can do this is by speaking about what has happened, first to one person, then another, and another. We need to correct them when they blame us, speaking out, putting responsibility back on the fraudsters where it truly lies. Putting the blame on the emotional manipulation we have endured and unwittingly colluded with. We have been abused.
There are numerous instances where attitudes in society have been successfully changed, so it is possible. Its happened around rape – no longer do we (most of us) believe that the woman ‘asked for it’. Attitudes are in the process of changing around the acceptability of domestic violence, especially here in Australia.
We must make an effort to change these attitudes to being scammed too. It is fraud, it is deliberate, it is violent and abusive, and it is done by criminals to us. This is not acceptable!
Only by speaking out can this be changed.