I don’t like it, but by definition, I was a victim. From the earliest of ages until I was twenty years old, I lived a life of unimaginable abuse, neglect, and terror. For the following 37 years, I was threatened to stay silent or suffer the consequences. The message was always a simple phone call with a person on the other end saying, “nothing has changed.”
My therapist worked hard to teach me that one of the nuances of a traumatized person is that they believe that they are somehow to blame for what happened to them. Whether it is the abusers message or a way for a person to try and make sense of what has happened to them, it is something that people who have been through trauma have in common.
The word victim, can be rather stigmatizing. It’s sometimes bantered about when we talk about someone who won’t or chooses not to change their situation. How many times do we hear someone saying, “she/he’s such a victim.” It can be confusing, because we don’t want to be a victim by an abuser, and we don’t want to be a victim by not standing up for ourselves or taking the bull by the horns and make difficult decisions. Two very different situations, but still the same word.
I understand I was a victim. I understand how my many perpetrators victimized me. I have let go of the false belief that I had been a willing participant in the events that happened to me. This knowledge doesn’t take away the facts of what happened, or the feelings that go along with what happened, but it does assuage the guilt.
But, they could not touch the core of who I am, and my innate need to remember and heal. They could not anticipate that I would eventually figure out that the more I stayed silent and crouched in terror, that I was only protecting them. They never realized that I would learn that when I began to talk, I was actually safer because if, I were to suffer the consequences that they had threatened me with, then it would only bring to light that what I was saying was the truth. They could no longer hide in the shadows of my mind and strike. My perpetrators can write me off as a liar and/or crazy, but that doesn’t have any effect on me. I know my truth, and being called crazy is really just, sticks and stones.
So yes, I was a victim. Now I am definitely a survivor.
sur·vi·vor /sərˈvīvər/ noun
- To remain alive or in existence.
- To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere.
- To live longer than; outlive.
- To live, persist, or remain usable through.
- To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after: survived child abuse.