The Other Side of, "Victim."
Hola Mi Gente!
How ya'll feeling today?
I began writing this post last night around 8:30, why? Cuz I have shit time management skills; and am driven mostly by my impulses; so, I'm literally prioritizing impulse by level of instant gratification, which isn't the best way to live life, but its how I'm coping for now, until I get in front of a psychiatrist and have my 1st official therapy session next Tuesday. Don;t judge me. STILL, I managed to get some writing time in which for me, is an accomplishment. So getting right into it....
I don't know if some ya'll know but, today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and, the 54th Anniversary of the murder of the Mirabal Sister. The Mirabal Sister, or Las Mariposas(The Butterflies), were Dominican civil rights activists fighting against the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship, in the Dominican Republic. Their social and political efforts were widespread throughout the island and posed a threat to Trujillo's regime so, he had them assassinated on Nov.25, 1960. In 1999, in honor and remembrance of the sisters, their strength, heroism, and resiliency; Nov.25th was then declared, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. As a feminist, an activist, and especially, a Dominican woman, I am so proud to be from the same country as these amazing sisters who stood passionately for what they believed in.
Globally, its estimated that 35% of women have experienced some form of physical and sexual violence. 1 in 3 girls will experience some form of sexual violence by the age of 18. The stats are disgusting, but they are real. In fact, I didn't know them until I joined Girl Be Heard (GBH), a non-profit organization/theater company that creates safe spaces for girls to share their stories creatively. I tell you this, like the stats and what yesterday was, not just because I'm an activist, even though that's part of it, but also because, since Ive joined GBH in 2012, and began sharing my story about the incest and child sexual abuse publicly, I started being referred to as, a survivor of incest, or abuse. I didn't think nothing of it, about being called, a "survivor," until this year.
To me, a survivor is someone who overcame an obstacle in their life that they didn't allow to stop them from living, and I mean living very, figuratively. And I also feel that in order to consider yourself a survivor of something, you have to feel as if you have been harmed or, victimized. So with that said, as I went through life, I never had the sense of ever feeling victimized because in my world, it was ok. In my world, I liked it. Shit, in my world, "I was looking for it." I always struggled with those emotions and the guilt of, why do I like this? when I was a little girl. So when I started to learn, that what happened to me wasn't ok, or my fault; then the question was, "well how was it abuse, if I liked it? Im not fucked up over it. I sleep at night, soooo...." In my mind, me and the word victim weren't matching up, AT ALL miss honey; plus, who wants to be considered a, "victim?" "Victims," were always portrayed to me, so one sided growing up. Dramatic. Weak. Fragile. We all want to be a survivor. Iiii wanted to be a survivor; very Destiny's Child, veeery independent woman but; I genuinely, didn't know how, or why I was a "survivor," cuz I hadn't accepted, there was anything to, survive. I was telling my story, being praised for just living, to tell the story, and I was just overwhelmed because I felt like some kind of a fraud. Despite my two hospitalizations and my fucked up thoughts on a daily, I have never acknowledged the little girl, who was in fact, victimized. It wasn't till this year that I had to face the things that have happened to me head on. Its the first time that I've ever felt the immense pain I was suppressing for her; I was mad at her for allowing those things to take place, for desiring them, it was as if, I've held and still have some kind of grudge against myself.
I had little to no empathy for me, maybe that's where some of the self-harming behaviors have came from; and still don't; due to shame, self-blaming, and even denial I still live with. However, as I continue to educate myself, these are common emotions experienced by adult survivors of child sexual abuse, along with a lot of other feelings and behaviors. RAINN, (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has these behaviors/feelings listed on their site as common among adult survivors-
There are many reactions that survivors of rape and sexual assault can have. But for adult survivors of childhood abuse there are reactions that may either be different or stronger than for other survivors. These include:
- Because your personal boundaries were invaded when you were young by someone you trusted and depended on, you may have trouble understanding that you have the right to control what happens to you.
- Like many survivors, you may experience flashbacks.
- This is often the most difficult emotion for an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse to get in touch with.
- As a child your anger was powerless and had little to no effect on the actions of your abuser. For this reason you may not feel confident that you anger will be useful or helpful.
- Being abused as a child means the loss of many things- childhood experiences, trust, innocence, normal relationship with family members (especially if the abuser was a family member).
- You must be allowed to name those losses, grieve them, and then bury them.
Guilt, Shame, and Blame
- You may carry a lot of guilt because you may have experienced pleasure or because you did not try to stop the abuse.
- There may have been silence surrounding the abuse that led to feelings of shame.
- It is important for you to understand that it was the adult who abused his/her position of authority and should be held accountable, not you.
- Learning to trust again may be very difficult for you.
- You may find that you go from one extreme to the other, not trusting at all to trusting too much.
- You have undoubtedly developed skills in order to cope with the trauma.
- Some of these are healthy (possibly separating yourself from family members, seeking out counseling, etc.)
- Some are not (drinking or drug abuse, promiscuous sexual activity, etc.)
- Low self-esteem is a result of all of the negative messages you received and internalized from your abusers.
- Because entering into an intimate relationship involves trust, respect, love, and the ability to share, you may flee from intimacy or hold on too tightly for fear of losing the relationship.
- You likely have to deal with the fact that your first initiation into sex came as a result of sexual abuse.
- You may experience the return of body memories while engaging in a sexual activity with another person. Such memories may interfere in your ability to engage in sexual relationships which may leave you feeling frightened, frustrated, or ashamed.
In the past year, I don't know how many times I've been on my knees asking why her, why me? It felt like, and still feels like, all those emotions that I should've felt a long time ago, I'm feeling now. I use to be very angry that I felt like this because I felt weak. I couldn't understand how I was able to keep life somewhat together without any issues for almost 10 years, and then, BAM! I mean, angry's an understatement. But, it was in those moments where it felt more important to cry in order to live, than to breath; where I was enraged with the world, myself, my abusers, my family, God, my muertos(Translation, spirit guides), that I found the most strength. Still, I wondered why I stopped crying? why was I able to just keep it moving, after an incident would take place. And I guess as I look back on it now, maybe I wasn't acting like what a "victim" should in my head, but I was self-preserving, and protecting myself. I think maybe my natural instinct to go into survival mode just always kicked right in. That my mind knew, I wasn't prepared to handle all that trauma on top of high school, foster care, no parents essentially, and so much other crap breeding in my world. I guess my body wasn't this huge betrayer after all, huh? I thought I couldn't be a victim either cuz I was still laughing, going out, like nothing yet, now that I'm older and am in this place in my life, just because I was functioning, didn't mean I still wasn't a victim.
No one wants to be the victim; be called a victim; say they're playing the victim,I know I sure as hell didn't. I also don't think that in my Latino and communities of color, we celebrate the strength of being a victim and, acknowledging that someone has violated you, or someone else you know; and that its also ok to feel all the crap that comes with it; that its ok, if life stops for a bit because a piece of you has been what at times might feel, stolen. The other side of "victim" is tender; raw; strong. Sometimes we don't validate those experiences of women, or men, because of our biases; I know I have. And sometimes automatically. So, I check myself and where those judgments are stemming from. I definitely did not validate my sexual abuse and, I find myself now trying to deconstruct those thoughts that tell me, I wanted it. Or that I liked it. That it was my fault.
Am I victim of sexual abuse, no. Was I, yes; and its still difficult for me to say, write, think, or feel. Now, do still feel that I am a survivor? Yes, resilient and strong. And I won't take away from that, the same way that I wont take away from the fact that I was victimized, and it wasn't my fault. It's not yours either. I'm starting to realize that acceptance is such a huge part of this journey, and a lot of the journey we are on right now. I was, 1 of the 3 girls that did experience some form of sexual violence by the age of 18; I am, part of 35% of female survivors globally, who have been victims of some form of violence. And I can't tell you, if I will ever fully accept some things from my past, or understand them but right now, I'm in a space where I am open to accepting the fact, that I am not to blame for the trauma I lived through, so I can love myself a little more deeply, and proudly.
Thank you for letting me vent on ya screen and, being a part of my healing.