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Monika

On being a victim...

25 posts in this topic

There is always great debate over what a 'victim' is...and sometimes great offense taken when referred to as one. Realistically the moment we are assaulted against our will, when we are powerless...like it or not, we are victims. But then there comes a time when that state of helplessness is carried on and it becomes a choice and sometimes that is hard for others to be around. Perhaps because those who can see it are aware of the fact that the person in the victim role is not consciously aware of being in that role and perpetuating it. S/he is not aware of other choices (however difficult they may be.) Everyone is there for a time. How do you think people move out of it?

I really feel like in order to get through my own process I need to be as positive and strength focused as possible. I don't want to bemoan what might have been or how much time I spend in therapy or how I've mistreated myself as a result of being abused and raped. I see no value in spending my time that way. I may not have caused all of my own problems, but I'm responsible for fixing them anyway and moaning about it won't help me fix anything. I can't go back and change anything. It's happened. Childhood was horrific, being stalked and raped terrifying...I can't change it, but I can take control over today and make the rest of my life the best it can possibly be. I can learn, integrate it, grow and move forward.

Where do you think you are in this process?

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That is a good question. I have wondered that for many years. I know that I have gotten past alot of it, but I have also learned (very recently) that stuff can sneak up on you, that certain things will become aparent when you have a skill or a coping mechanism that is not working anymore, and you have to change it. Sometimes that is all that has happened to a person. Besides, sometimes, someone doesn't know what is going on to make people uncomfortable, and it takes time to recognize it on our own. How people move out of it really depends on the person. H/she may realize it soon after it happens some may take years....but you can't force it, you can't make it happen faster....and my questions are: Does the process ever end? Do we ever stop evolving, changing, reflecting on the things we have gathered to ourselves for what ever reasons (be they protection, or habits we picked up in a relationship) to keep the things that are good and healthy for us and discard the bad and negative?  And how long does it take each time?

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I remember Tori saying something about this years ago... something like... I made a commitment not to be a victim again.

I think it's really hard to take responsibility for fixing all of the problems that are caused by being victimized, especially because sexual violence, and its aftermath, makes you feel so powerless.

However, you are completely right that, in order to survive and not be completely insane and miserable, you eventually have to take responsibility for your own actions. Sometimes, when there are secondary issues such as eating disorders, or addiction, that is a lot to ask. It is an uphill and seemingly impossible battle. But the alternative sucks more - revictimizing yourself for the rest of your life is no way to live.

To specifically answer your question, I think that I'm at the point that I can recognize everything I just wrote, but still get caught up in "why the fuck do I have to deal with this shit - I don't want to - I guess I'll go eat worms" stuff a lot of the time. :)

Good thread!

-Lis

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FWIW (and that may be very little), I struggle with the victim/survivor labels a lot.  

I find "victim" distasteful because of the implication of helplessness (and even to type the word "helpless" still evokes a painful mental image and watery eyes), yet right now (6 months later) I feel more like a victim than a "survivor" because the aftermath seems to dictate more of my life (my thoughts, my dreams, how I spend my time, how I interact (or don't...) with people, etc.) than I do consciously.

I find "survivor" distasteful because that seems to me to imply a level of healing and recovery that I've not yet achieved, a certain element of placing the rape in the past, and for me it is still very much present.

So I choose to use neither word.  I'm neither a victim nor a survivor... just a woman who was raped by two men at knifepoint.

Lora

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I agree though that sometimes thing sneak up on you, particularly when I'm stressed and not paying enough attention to taking care of myself.

I struggle with the victim/survivor thing.  I had a very good friend of mine, sober 10 years in AA, suggest to me that instead of either I was "in survival" like he's "in recovery."  It's not quite something I'll ever accomplish - survivor - but I can live into it.

Moira

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I also struggle with the so called "labels"  I thought about this after reading this post and I realize that I don't use either of the words... I don't say I was a victim of abuse nor do i say I am an abuse survivior.  I guess whenever I tell anyone (which is not often) I just say I was s*xually abused as a child.  
 I guess they can make out of that whatever they chose.  I don't walk around with a S for  "survivior" or a V for "victim" on my sleeve.  
I think the child I was is a victim, and even though I may eventually heal (which is another very vaugue term if you ask me, which we could do an entire thread on..)  I think I will always think of that child as a victim... there was nothing that she did to fight back, but I don't blame her, and looking realistically (which is soo soo hard) there is nothing she could have done to stop them.





okay... enough talking about things in third person...

I dunno, I guess thats my two cents... although I don't know if I answered the original question...

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Good thread, Rainbabe.

Agreed utterly, sisters - though I think there's another side and you doubtless know it - I do think it's neccessary to be careful of not wanting to be seen to be a victim; for example  I struggle with allowing vulnerability space; on-going PTSD stuff makes me feel victimized and I get scared of telling how I feel lest people should think I'm "playing the victim".

At these times, I need to remind myself that being honest about one's pain isn't the same as whining and asking other people to take responsibility. Asking for help is part of actively seeking to move forward. While I trust and tell, it doesn't mean I cease to be engaged in fighting my own fight.

Now, where am I at with being a vicitim?

Sometimes I still get caught up in begrudging the fact that I have occassional but fuck-horrible attacks of PTSD around my physically and sexually violent relationship - it shits me that he's free to go on with his sorry ass life while I still jump at noises.

Then I remember that his IS a sorry-ass life, with none of the strength, love and integrity that I have.

As well, I do sometimes regret things - I wonder what would have become of a creative, beautiful child called Louise if she hadn't been battered and sexually abused since the year dot, and forged her personality around a core of self-hatred.

Then I remember that what actually DID become of her is damn good enough - she came to hate injustice and to fight it, and she never stopped appreciating the beauty that the world offers alongside the crap.

Sometimes I still have days where I wish I could seek refuge in my room and stay there...because I feel like I don't want to have to keep striving.

Then I remember that I have only one life, and by hell, it's mine to make sure it's a good one. What happened to me wasn't my fault. That it affected me isn't my fault and sucks sometimes. But how I respond to it - that's up to me. If I lose my way, I'm blessed with having good friends in rl and here that I can ask to walk with me awhile as I sort myself out, and I doubt I would be where I am without their love, kindness, wisdom and positive view of me that isn't always mine. But nobody will do it for me.

I was a victim...it wasn't my fault. But I also became a very defiant woman, and I refuse to be held back.

(((((((((All brothers and sisters, wherever you are)))))))))

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i seem to be doing well right now, but i try to be careful and not label how i am currently feeling as either "good healing and progress" or "bad victimhood".  what i mean is, my ups are ok and my downs are ok, because life has waves of emotions.  
i was furious at the rapist (i dont call him my r) because what he did forced me onto this path.  and then i decided that i was not forced onto any healing path, i was going to instead choose what i wanted and set a goal.  so i decided that i was going to use this opportunity to learn how to love me and take good care of me.  
that made this not about him, and all about me.  and it seemed to change everything for me.  it seemed to open up doors and light and goodness to come into my life.
i also think a significant thing i did was to tell him he to take that look that was on his face back, and take that moment back, because i was done with it, and it was not mine.  i suspect that in abuse in the past, what i saw as the victim in that moment was the look on the abusers' faces, and looking into their eyes as they made evil choices, and that look horrified me.  for me, much of the shame and ugliness and horror that i thought was in myself was actually that picture of the shame and ugliness and horror of the abuser him/herself.  and i began to let go of those images, and realize they are Not Me.  
he made that choice, Not Me.  and despite what evil he was capable of, i am going to love myself like i have never loved myself before.  i am going to take care of myself.  i am going to make this life worth living since i chose to live.  i will not regret that choice.
bloogirl

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Ahhh, Lis and Lou, thank you both for capturing the true flavor of this thread, which has nothing to do with labels or being labelled, but rather states of being/living and that we do have some choice in our states of being/living at some point in the aftermath. The two of you are miraculous women--growing through the challenges and triumphing over them. Honoring yourselves and your processes well into thriving  :) You two kick some serious ass!

Bloogirl,
[quote]and then i decided that i was not forced onto any healing path, i was going to instead choose what i wanted and set a goal.  so i decided that i was going to use this opportunity to learn how to love me and take good care of me. ....and despite what evil he was capable of, i am going to love myself like i have never loved myself before.  i am going to take care of myself.  i am going to make this life worth living since i chose to live.  i will not regret that choice[/quote]
That is absolutely beautiful. You eloquently and clearly capture the concept of taking responsibility for one's own life... taking the challenges and growing, moving forward, building a life worth living that you can enjoy and thrive in. Keep kicking! May you capture all the peace and love there is  :)

Take gentle care, Rain

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[quote]we do have some choice in our states of being/living at some point in the aftermath.[/quote]

I really love this concept. It's so easy to get paralyzed by your problems, but I think if you always keep this in mind, you will keep making progress.

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I remember going into counseling for the first time and expressing anger over being put into the position of going to counseling.  My life had been so wonderful up until that point.

It really is a choice to start healing, despite the fact that you've been given no choice, isn't it?

Thanks, Rain, for starting this thread.

Hugs,

Jes

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Rain,

It is so wonderful to see you here again. You have been missed sweetheart.

Again, I am going to answer without reading responses (because I really should be working).

For me, recognizing that I was indeed at some point a victim was actually crucial for me to move forward. You see, for years and years I was minimized and invalidated and therefore did not even realize I was in fact a victim! So, when I started having flashbacks of my attempted rape, I did some research (which eventually led me here to Pandoras) and I found out that what happened to me was a crime! Somehow, I didn't even realize that. So, after 14 years, I officially became a victim.

I needed to be that victim for awhile. To me, it meant that what happened was real, it was a big deal, it mattered etc. I learned a lot of things about what I  had gone through, what I had felt, what I was feeling. I started therapy. At that point, I decided that if I was going to do this, I had to leave that temporary status of being a victim and start being a survivor. I didn't realize until recently that I had been that survivor all along.

I know that many many people hate the word victim, don't like to be called a victim etc. For me, it was a necessity. But, it was only a temporary necessity. Once I realized that I was experiencing PTSD, felt the same emotions as so many people here, etc I was able to start the process of moving out of "victimhood". It was really when I started getting the validation I needed that I was able to start moving forward.

Granted, my situation may be different because my experiences were a long time ago. I won't lie and say that issues don't pop up for me now and again but the difference is that I don't go all the way back to where I was almost 2 years ago when I came here. If something new comes up, I may think "well, dammit I thought I was through this" but I don't feel the need to go all the way back to where I was.


Anyway, Rain, I don't know if this had anything to do with what you were asking but it is what came to mind when I read your post.

Love,
Shell

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I don't mean to "stir the pot", but I feel obligated to reply to the comments regarding having a choice "in our states of being/living at some point in the aftermath".  I think the key part of that phrase is AT SOME POINT.  I *do* believe that (if I didn't, I would -- in all seriousness -- end it all right now), but I also know that many people here, myself included, have not reached that point yet, and my concern is that some here will overlook that small phrase -- as I did when I first read it -- and that they will misinterpret it as some kind of indictment against those of us who still have our hands completely full with are just getting through each day.  

I just thought some clarification might help.

Lora

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I disagree about it being a choice only at some point. I think it is ALWAYS a choice to get out of victim mode, starting from day one. It is excruciatingly hard, though.

I would have argued that there was no choice at a time, when I was living as a victim.  I would have vehemently asserted that I could not heal yet. I was just lying to myself…I could have broken out much earlier, but I chose not to. I needed something out of my depression. I got comfortable in it. And I regret it so much sometimes – I willingly gave more than a year of my life to victim-hood. I wasn’t ready, but I didn’t push myself to be ready either.  I didn’t even give the survivor in me a chance. That was entirely my choice.

I used to fucking hate it when someone would point out to me that I was making a choice to stay a victim. What did they know? It's funny that I see now that they were right.

There is nothing wrong with me taking my time in healing – it was part of the process. But that day when I “woke up” and got help gave me a new view of my past, and forced me to accept my own role in my pain. It’s a lot harder to take the steps to heal than it is to lie in it.

I have more clarity now than I did then, and I think I can evaluate things more effectively. I certainly needed some time to cry and heal – that is being a survivor. Being a victim for me started when I had a choice to get better and didn’t take it. When the wound was fresh (regardless of when the abuse occurred – what matters is when you start to deal with it), I was surviving by letting it heal. Once it was healed and scarred, and I didn’t make a choice to survive, I let myself be a victim. Recognizing that was the one of the most important things I’ve done.

(this is just my story and my opinion. i dont hold it to be the truth, just my truth).

Shannon

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Shannon, I guess maybe it depends on how you define "victim" and "healing"...

Personally, I am doing everything that I am able to do to at the moment (therapy, drugs, being here, whatever) to work through what happened, but I still feel much more like a "victim" than a "survivor", and I do NOT feel as if I have ANY choice in how I feel from day to day.  I'm pretty ^&@$! lucky to even be able to identify HOW I feel on any given day.  I do the best I can, but it's hurtful to hear someone try to tell me that I DO have a choice.  Talk to me in another six months and you *might* have an argument, but not right now.

Lora

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But wait... Lora... you ARE making a choice each day to go to therapy, and to post here and to keep working on healing.

Choosing to get out of victim mode doesn't mean that you get instant results and suddenly all of your problems are solved. It means that you make an active choice each day that you want to feel better, and that you are taking control of your life and responsibility for making yourself whole again.

And part of the reason that it's so hard is that you have to wake up every day and make that choice, because problems don't just disappear. It's fucking hard. I have been working on this shit for six years and I still have days where I can't get out of bed because I let myself slip back into the victim mode and my depression wins the day. Or something traumatic happens, and I say "you know what? I have PTSD, and therefore, I don't sleep, eat, study, socialize, shower or leave my room."

That's falling into the victim trap. What you're doing right now is NOT that. You are surviving.

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Lora,  I'd encourage you to read both Shannon and Lis' responses another time.
[quote]and I do NOT feel as if I have ANY choice in how I feel from day to day[/quote]
It's also important to remember that feelings are not facts. Just because you feel as if you don't have any choice does not in fact mean that you don't. I'm sorry if it hurts to hear that you do have choices today in how you feel and live, but the fact of the matter is that you do. Lis and Shannon both make many excellent points around this fact. I don't think anyone is saying it's easy, far from it. It's very hard... but well worth it when we challenge ourselves to build a life worth living and then move on to thrive in that life. I'm glad you see those possibilities for yourself in the future. Be gentle with yourself.

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Ok, let me re-phrase my response.

I do not THINK that I have any conscious choice about how I feel from day to day.  I also do not think that I am wallowing in being a victim.  I think that I am doing everything I am capable of doing at this point in time to heal, but that I have not reached a point where I can decide that today I am NOT going to be triggery or teary or give in to intrusive thoughts or whatever.  (And I still think it's hurtful to not acknowledge that for people for whom the experience is fresh just getting from one day to another is sometimes all one can handle.)

Obviously we're not going to agree on this one (no matter WHAT day I read it.)

Lora

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Hey Lora,

I know that this happened to you really recently, and that's why there's such a disconnect between what you're saying and what the thread is about.

I get what you're saying, and it's a valid point. Nobody should expect someone who was just raped to be able to have it together enough to find her car keys, let alone continue to live life, start therapy, meds, cope with the aftermath, post on this board and not want to cry 24 hours a day. I've been there, and I don't think that the purpose of this thread was to invalidate that stage of healing.

I think what Rain is trying to offer is encouragement - that yes getting from one day to another is a massive accomplishment now - but if you keep choosing to push yourself, which it seems like you are doing, you will eventually feel like a survivor.

You will feel like you have a choice.

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[quote name='Lis' date='Nov. 17 2003, 11:00 am']You will feel like you have a choice.[/quote]
Yes, I agree, and I appreciate the reposnse.  The key word, however, is WILL.  Just not right now. Yes, I know that the thread was not INTENDED to invalidate anything, which is why I posted my initial response as I did... trying to clarify, but the response to my initial reply made it pretty clear that not everyone agrees.

I think it's great that some people are at a point where they can see where they had choices, and those of us who are new to this rely heavily on the experiences of people who have made great healing strides.  But it's for that very same reason that I find it troublesome that anyone would discount that early, very difficult stage of healing where the only choice is whatever gets you through the next hour.


Lora

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Hey Lora,

There certainly is that place where getting through the hour is the best you can do.  And it really fails, doesn't it?

I don't think the point of this post is to deny anyone the right to feel badly.  My mother told me the day after I was raped, "I'd be worried if you weren't crying."  We are members of this board because we do suffer over what happened to us.


Yet, even in  our suffering, we have the power to make positive choices.  For instance, we can choose to feel horrible, rather than cutting.  Or we can choose to force ourselves to eat, rather than starving ourselves.  Perhaps most importantly, we can chose to forgive ourselves for making poor choices.

Hugs,

Jes

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Personally I think we don't always  have choice over how we feel but we do have a choice over what we do with how we feel at all stages of the process.  And the choices we make at that point if they are the right ones will hopefully enable us to feel better.  This was one of the realizations that helped me stop c*tting. I realized I couldn't always control whether I wanted to do it, but I could control whether I did it.  Similarly if we are feeling really bad we can choose to stay in bed, we can choose to call a friend, we can choose to read the board etc.  But we do have a choice.  We can get out of bed no matter how bad we are feeling if we choose to. It's ok to choose not to if that is what is needed and some days we may feel so bad that that is a reasonable choice. But I think what I understand you to say Rain, is that if we always  choose to stay in bed, not engage with others  because of what happened  or when we use what happened as an excuse not to push ourselves and grow, we can end up maintaining a "victim" state.  (I'm just using staying in bed as just one example.)  Sometimes that means not letting those bad feelings determine all our choices, but making choices that go against how we are feeling  to effect transformation. It's finding the right balance of pushing ourselves and accepting where we are at that is the hardest for me to figure out.  It's when we become stagnant and stop doing our best to grow and heal that it becomes a problem.

I understand what you are saying Lora about feeling you don't have a choice over how you are feeling.  I agree with you that that is often true. But you are making positive choices in your life - to go to T, to take meds, to participate here, to do your best to overcome this and heal. Every day you are choosing to live.   You could have chosen denial, minimization etc. You could have chosen to abuse drugs or other unhealthy ways of coping.  So while you may not be able to control how you are feeling you have chosen  to respond to those feelings in positive ways that will help you heal.

Just my 2 cents.

n.

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Great perspective, noname!

Hugs,

Jes

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noname, your '2 cents' are extremely valuable! You said that very well!

take gentle care,
Rain

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((Noname))

That was so wonderfully said, sweetheart.  

xoxo

Lynn

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