yeah, i feel like this way a lot. i saw a similar thing the other day on another page i follow where (liberal-minded) people were talking about how everyone should be required to learn english when they come to the united states o_O
[trigger warning: rape joke things related to pedophilia and child sexual abuse]
A few months ago, back when Herman Cain was still a potential Republican presidential candidate, there was a sexual harassment scandal about him. Apparently he used to be a real creep to some of his coworkers, and there was this lawsuit and eventually a settlement.
I think it should be obvious that I am liberal-leaning in my politics. So shortly after this story broke, I saw a Facebook post about it by this democrat page that I (used to) follow. It was really fucked up. Paraphrased:
Now little Susie, why don’t you show us where Uncle Herman touched you on the doll.
Yes, some liberal democrat, a person who is supposed to be my political “ally”, thought that it would be funny to make a joke about pedophilia. So I called this out, and a few other people did too, but all we got in return was the typical “you’re being too sensitive, I thought it was funny you need to relax” argument. Yes, because a joke about being fucked as a kid is totally haha-let’s-all-laugh-at-this.
More recently, the person in charge of one of the most popular “feminist” blogs on the internet said that she didn’t “believe in” trigger warnings. Meanwhile, she posted gratuitous images of someone’s rape for everyone to see.
I’m sure that this comes as no surprise to the other survivors/victims out there— these things happen all of the time. Outside of our abuse, we quickly learn that people who seem trustworthy and nice actually turn out to be complete jerks. Our friends laugh at us or belittle our experiences. Teachers, pastors, and other authority figures refuse to believe us, and it’s often our family members facilitating the abuse in the first place.
Sometimes, even other survivors are completely terrible. It’s happened before. But most of the time, it’s those self-proclaimed “allies”, or people we would think are our allies. We might share the same kind of politics. We might even vote for the same people. But when your politics begin to stomp on my very existence and survival…no. That’s not okay.
What really sucks about this is that for awhile, I really did think that certain-friend-who-made-a-rape-joke or facebook-page-of-like-minded-individuals were safe. You know? Like there is this need for me to trust people and give them a chance. But when things like this happen, it makes you reconsider even allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the first place. It might be safer to just not make friends or “allies” at all.
[general trigger warning: child sexual abuse and rape, rape culture things]
A whole lot of the dialogue and literature surrounding sexual abuse and rape tends to use the term “survivor” to describe us. I use survivor in the literal and emotional sense; I survived suicide. I survived sexual abuse and almost becoming a monster myself. I survived losing my sense of boundary and self. To me, “survivor” means I have already won just by being here.
On the other hand, however, we think that being a “victim” is something demeaning. It’s not good to be a victim— victims are helpless; survivors can fight back. Victims are hurt; survivors were hurt but they keep on going. Victims are “broken”; survivors are strong. And so on.
But in reality, every person who has experienced sexual abuse or rape approaches their self-image differently. Some people call themselves victim until they feel like they’ve gotten to the right point in their lives to name themselves survivor. Other people take on “survivor” immediately because they feel it better fits their desire to keep living in spite of their trauma. Just like it took me years before i could name my experience, it also took me years before I could call myself a survivor. Before that, I was a victim. (And other people don’t even use either of these labels, they find something else or nothing at all.)
The problem with seeing “victim” as a bad thing is that it makes it into a bad thing. But being victimized is not the fault of the person being hurt; it’s the fault of their abuser(s). Earlier today, someone told me that I have a need to portray myself as a victim, that I have a “complex” and a persistent need to be that way. But actually, I’ve realized that it’s the complete opposite; I am so anti-seeing-my-self-as-a-victim that it has hurt me.
The fear of labeling yourself a victim is often paired with that “you’re just doing it for attention” thing. The message we get is that drawing attention to our problems is morally reprehensible, that it’s selfish and wrong. But again, there is nothing wrong with being abused; the abuser is the one at fault. Other times, the “victim” label means that we are flawed, needy people who need to “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps”; but isn’t everyone like that every now and then? We all need other people. We all need to tell other people that we’re not feeling okay.
Sometimes I am a survivor, and other times I am a victim. I’m here, and I am a victim of child sexual abuse and rape. Well, so what? Maybe that makes some people feel uncomfortable, that we are going around and (gasp) existing as people-who-survive and people-who-are-victims. But when I draw attention to my situation, I am claiming my right to exist in this world as a full and complex person, with all of the wants and needs therein. So labeling myself as a victim is not something horrible; it’s realistic. Yes, I was a victim of child sexual abuse and rape. And yes, it has all affected me in significant ways. That is a fact.
If I can’t acknowledge this, the fact that I have been and sometimes still am a victim, I create unrealistic standards for myself. I make myself believe that I must always be strong, that I must always be the Survivor with a capital S; always powerful, always laughing and never crying. I tell myself that I must always be tough and unflinching in the face of fear, in the face of a kind of death that reaches beyond the body and into the heart.
But no survivor is like that all of the time. No one is like that all of the time. Or even most of the time.
Sometimes I am a victim, and that’s okay. It’s my right to be one.
Hey, I’m not sure if you meant for it to end there or if your message got cut off.
I like to think that just living and existing is a kind of revenge. Rape is so often a tool of destruction or total control over another person, so living and enjoying your life despite that is a statement in itself. You may not be able to get justice legally now, but you are still here and that is really amazing.
There’s only so much one person can do. No matter how close you get to someone, you still can’t know everything about them. People commit suicide for many reasons, but it’s not usually because of just one person who “didn’t do enough”— it’s a combination of many different factors, experiences with people, the environment you grew up in, etc. I know you probably feel some guilt, but it’s not your fault.