When I was 14 and my abuse was exposed, I didn’t feel like a victim right away. It was when I spoke with the victim child advocate that was appointed to me when the sexual assault was reported. It was during that time that she told me that what I was feeling, what I had wondered all along, and how I was acting while telling her the details of what had happened, was all normal for child sexual abuse victims. She used the word victim… and that word gave me strength.
In that moment that I learned I was a victim, it brought validity, relief, and understanding to what I was feeling and thinking and wondering about. It made me aware of what had actually happened to me and I no longer blamed myself. I was no longer ashamed, in that moment of time, for what I had been tricked into doing. I wasn’t stupid. I was a victim, destroyed by a predator.
However, the word victim in our society has some negative connotation attached to it, as though it’s stating one is weak or stupid. We declare, “I’M NOT A VICTIM” … but being a victim doesn’t mean we are weak or stupid. Despite one way that it is used in context of a person who has been tricked (again, making one feel weak or stupid), the forms in which it is used are as follows:
“A person or thing destroyed in pursuit of an object, or in gratification of a passion.”
“A person or living creature destroyed by, or suffering grievous injury from, another, from fortune or from accident.”
“A living being sacrificed or made an offering of.”
Who wants to describe themselves as destroyed, suffering, or tricked? Especially in a society where men and women alike both must be strong or women have fallen short of the feminist agenda and men are emasculated or made effeminate in some way.
In my case, after that moment with the victim child advocate, the word victim didn’t continue to express what I had experienced at the time because my sister L told me she was a victim too because she had trusted David and he betrayed that trust… (ETA 7/28/18: This was filtered through believing the lie J told me that L was making it all about her – so it impacted me deeply). But her experience wasn’t as harrowing as mine. She had trusted the man who abused me and he betrayed that trust, but she didn’t have the sexual violence associated with it. I subconsciously began to no longer use the word “victim.”
Victim became a dirty word for me for different reasons than it has become for society… it didn’t express what I was feeling and working through. It didn’t represent the first time I attempted to be sexually active with my future husband, a year following the assault. The flashbacks, the pain, the fear, and the panic. I was destroyed, ruined, torn apart. It didn’t represent the triggers, the limits, the discomfort of being around any man other than the man I would marry a few years later. It didn’t represent the dreams, the images, the memories… it didn’t represent what I had endured and was continuing to endure, and what I would endure for years to come.
Being betrayed by someone we trust is awful and painful; I empathize with L, who experienced such a thing. I can relate from other experiences in my life of experiencing that. However, to state that a grown woman, who experienced such a thing, was a victim along with the 14 year old girl who was sexually violated and literally didn’t know who she was anymore because that girl before the sexual assault no longer existed, was damaging to the healing process. It was confusing and I found myself finding ways to be there for her instead of having her be there for me to the capacity that I needed her to be. Her words lost meaning when she called me a hero when I was told by J that she thought I was partially responsible… I didn’t feel like a hero.
‘Victim’ should not be the dirty word and adults who are the support team for children who are sexual abuse victims should deal with that pain they are dealing with, separately. It’s not the child’s responsibility to help the adults around them to heal. THEY need the support. ‘Victim’ is not a dirty word. It can be an empowering word in the process of healing and validation. I needed that validation… the validation that I was destroyed. Who I was, no longer existed. I was lost and confused and didn’t understand life around me. In time, however, I would see that there is beauty in acknowledging one is destroyed.
What is the beauty in the word destroyed (to unbuild; to pull or tear down; to separate virulently into its constituent parts; to break up the structure and organic existence of; to demolish)? The word RESTORED (to bring back to its former state; to bring back from a state of ruin, decay, disease, or the like; to repair; to renew; to recover).
I was destroyed, but I’m being restored; I’ve been made new and I’m recovering. Our destruction on this earth is not the end of our story. God is restoring us and making us alive again. We are strong for surviving. We are established in Him and we are overcoming what was done to us! I was a victim, I am a victim… I was destroyed… but it’s in the weakness of having been destroyed, that I find Christ’s strength in my life and I am RESTORED. May God be glorified in this process of bringing me back to Him from such a state of ruin and decay! HE’S NOT FINISHED WITH US YET.