It’s been quite awhile since I’ve last written. And as usual, a lot has happened, to say the least – I have officially transitioned away from science and started an amazing new job that I absolutely love; I tried the online dating thing out of curiosity (let’s just say I’m no longer curious); I have continued to push my case against my abuser forward when the school keeps trying to push it back; and I have confided in even more people about the reality of what happened to me.

As I’ve mentioned more times than I can count, there are many reasons why a survivor may choose to not go forward and share her story. And I thought I had experienced just about all of them. But one reason I had never fully understood until now, is that once you tell someone what happened, they may, and most likely will, see you differently – as a victim.

Unlike the previous times I confided in people, I told these latest individuals not as much out of choice, but because of my Title IX case against my abuser – yet another consequence of this ongoing battle. And one of the scariest things is knowing that once you say those words, you cannot take them back. Your truth is out there for yet another person to know, absorb, and evaluate. And taking in their reaction is one of the hardest parts about telling your story. It makes what happened that much more real. Because now, it’s not only affecting you, but these people you are confiding in. And most importantly, it affects your relationship with them.

Because even after you’ve finished telling your story, the hard part is not really over. Life doesn’t just go back to the way it was before you told your truth, just like life doesn’t go back to the way it was before the abuse. There is something in their eyes, in their voice, in the look on their face, that wasn’t there before – slightly imperceptible at times, but still present nonetheless. I’m not sure if I’ve figured out what exactly it is yet – a mix of sympathy, pity, disbelief, horror, and probably a hundred other emotions all at once.

And I guess this is why, lately, I’ve been feeling like the word “victim” is stamped on my forehead for the whole world to see. And I’m realizing that even though I can move forward from this experience, and I think I am starting to, it will always be part of my past. It will always be my story. And it will always have the power to change my relationship with anyone, to evoke a reaction from someone that I can’t even fully describe, to make me feel like I’m somehow different or “other” because of what I’ve experienced. It is what makes people see me as a victim.

I know intellectually these people don’t see me as no more than “just a victim.” These are caring and compassionate people, and that is why they had a reaction to my story – because they truly care. But maybe I don’t want to be seen as a victim at all anymore. I guess that after 2 years, I am finally getting tired of that label and all the feelings that go along with it. Because we are so, SO much more than just victims and survivors. We are daughters, friends, neuroscientists, dog lovers, artists, musicians, and writers. “Survivor” is just the beginning.

I am not a victim anymore, and I pray to God that I never will be again. But I will always be a survivor. And maybe it’s okay that these people see me slightly differently, that they understand this one other part of me. Because this experience was real and it is a part of my past. It has shaped who I am and led me to where I am now. And even though there are definitely days when I still struggle (shout out to Title IX), I am in an infinitely better place in my life than I have been in a very long time. And that is something to be grateful for.

15 thoughts on “Victim for Never, Survivor Forever

  1. Maybe the other look you see is admiration. I admire your courage and finding your own way to move forward, I think you will find you are already putting the victim behind you. You have learnt and are building on yourself, well done and keep getting those thoughts out there …..

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  2. This is beautiful! I think sometimes the best versions of ourselves has to be born out of the worst circumstances..not that anyone deserves to go through this AT ALL! You have the ability to inspire by telling the truth though, and that’s not being a victim.. You are a survivor!

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    1. Thank you so much for your support. You’re right – the most challenging experiences can often show us who we really are. And I do hope that by telling my story, I can help other survivors feel less alone. Thank you again for your thoughtful comment. Wish you all the best – speak766

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  3. Wondering how they now perceive you is a very scary thing. 20 years later I’m telling my story more to those in my life and I know that little change. It’s scary, but what others have said is true too; there’s admiration in there. I’m proud to say that I’m a trauma and attempted murder survivor, and that I’m about to adopt a tween from the foster system who is going to be raised to know how incredible she is for being so strong and a trauma survivor. You’re working to protect others, like my future daughter, from more trauma, so there is a bit of beautiful to come from our journeys. Every time someone stands up I wholeheartedly believe it stops at least a few others from ever committing a trauma on someone. So thank you and thank you for sharing your grace in transforming from victim to survivor. When the night seems too long, remember that you have other survivors staring into the shadows too and being thankful that another found their voice.

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. You’re right – we’re an army of survivors and our voices have the power to heal ourselves and hopefully, protect others from going through the same thing. Your future daughter is so lucky to have such an amazingly courageous woman as her mother. I wish you both all the best ❤

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  4. Hello my friend. Our friend. You have touched on such a complex topic here. While I’m a survivor myself, I am also a friend or acquaintance to other survivors and people who are suffering. A friend of mine recently lost her battle with breast cancer and we attended her funeral. My son is in her son’s class at high school and we’ve known them since the boys played AFL when they were young. They;re now 14. Despite being pretty well versed with mixing with people who are suffering, I dread running into her husband because I feel this heavy weight. A weight which won’t shift for a long time and there’s not much to be said. A wave ? A smile? Golly, the guy doesn’t have leprosy but he wasn’t the easiest to talk to before. I realized that people do the same to me. Say nothing because they don’t know what to say. At Church, I must be perceived as my husband’s ghost who somehow stays alive against the odds. Maybe they get a surprise to find out I’m still alive.
    When it comes to some of the bad things which happened to me when I was younger and most of my friends have had some kind of “bad experience”, not that that makes any of those any less, these have faded as I’ve got older. Met my husband and had a family and new issues surface and the old don’t exactly die off but they’ve certainly lost their force.
    I think most of us of a certain age could be considered victims and/or survivors. We have experienced our lot. Hopefully, we learn from it and personally I try to use what I have learned to help others get further down the road. Help them feel that they are not alone.
    Love & best wishes,
    Rowena

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