"These things that have happened to you, are not ok"
Sooooo… CoVid is a fun thing, huh?
With my self-isolation time, I've been practicing my telepathy skills. (for those of you who don't know me, that was a joke and yes... it was funny)
And now, for my debut mind reading show, I'm gonna go with... many of you are experiencing some trauma around this Coronavirus stuff?
If this is your first time with trauma… welcome!!! There's soooo much more to come lol.
If this is not your first rodeo, hold tight cowgirl. We just need to get through the next 8 seconds.
There is a conversation around the word victim that NEEDS to happen now more than ever. (not a joke)
Fact: If you experience trauma or abuse, you are a victim.
Opinion: The way society uses the word victim is abusive and shames or blames them - which makes proper healing impossible.
Whew… that’s a scary opinion to put out in the world. Quite honestly, I’m looking for your help to find the flaw in my logic ‘cause I’m not sure why no-one else has ever brought this up??
I’m absolutely putting my logical foot forward and reining in my "Geesuz fuck, what kind of victim blaming crap is this?!" voice ... but don't worry, I'll lose my calm before this is all over.
I love analogies, (all hail tea and consent!), so how about we look at this from a perspective we can easily agree on.
If you give birth, you are biologically a mother. It is, by definition, a fact.
You cannot change facts with your opinion.
(I know; I’ve tried.) Please imagine that in bold and underlined a billion times
There are endless ways to have an opinion on what being a PARENT means but with the act of giving birth, you will be factually labelled as a mother (biologically).
Therefore, there are endless ways to have an opinion on what being a SURVIVOR means but with the experience of trauma/abuse, you are factually labelled as a victim.
You don't tell an alcoholic not to be an alcoholic; they can’t un-be it. You teach them how to live a healthy life as an alcoholic.
So stop telling victims not to be victims; they can’t un-be it. Instead teach them how to live with being a victim in a healthy way...how to turn scabs into scars.
Are you with me so far?
I've never been wrong in my life.
(figured out when I'm joking yet?)
Ok... so MAYBE I've been wrong once or twice, but you're about to prove me right this time.
I’m willing to bet that being labelled a victim doesn’t make you feel anything good - and that is EXACTLY the point!!
If you reacted negatively in any way to the idea of being a victim because you’re experiencing effects of trauma right now, you’ve proven my fact thesis that in our minds, victim is a bad thing.
We think victim is a dirty word and tag a fuck ton of negative crap onto it when it should be a benign description.
My straight up, full on, unapologetic opinion and possibly newly identified fact: The language we use around the word victim and the way we use the word victim, NEEDS to change.
But for now let's discuss indisputable facts: the definition of victim is "a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action."
FUCKED UP SIDE NOTE FUN FACT
Trauma can be acute or chronic
(meaning a one time thing or an ongoing shit show - oh hi CoVid)
The definition of trauma is, "a deeply distressing or disturbing experience". Meaning if it’s not disturbing or distressing you, it isn’t trauma and you aren’t a victim of that trauma… but many of us deny how something is affecting us because that would equal victim...and victim is bad. So if I had a flow chart I’d be back at let’s rethink how we use the word victim
Pretty sure my logic is sound at this point, no matter how you feel about it. Moving on...
There’s a bucket load of people experiencing CoVid as trauma and therefore a whole bunch of people about to feel deep shame at having a normal and expected human reaction to trauma.
Victim. Victim. Victim. If I say it enough will that help take the stigma away? Like saying vagina. There’s a fabulous Kristen Bell on Ellen clip where she just keeps saying it.. vagina…vagina…vagina. It’s a word. There’s nothing wrong with the word. It’s a good word. Vagina!
Victim. There’s nothing wrong with the word.
Abuser. Abuse. Trauma. CoVid. Hate on those words!
What if I suggested victims are resilient, determined, selfless, brave? Or do you think of those as survivor qualities and victims are indecisive, irrational, scattered, unwilling to accept responsibility?
I think the part about victims being unwilling to accept responsibility is untrue but that's a different rant and this one is long enough. Stay with with me...
Can I ask you a question? How do you think a victim becomes a survivor? Spoiler alert - they’re actually the same person.
Student vs grad… girl vs woman … mother vs grandmother… victim vs survivor. In every case its the SAME person. They learned, they grew, they had obstacles to overcome, they tried, they failed, they tried again, they had to be one BEFORE they could be the other…
...and in every scenario we allow them - in fact, we expect and encourage them - not to be perfect, to make mistakes and to become better for them.
Except victims. Don’t be a victim; be a survivor. Does anyone ever say, “don’t be a student; be a grad”? “Be a grandmother first, then deal with motherhood.” Yet, we expect victims to skip a step... and then blame them for their problems saying they are ‘acting like victims’.
What you might say vs what a victim might hear
*** which kindof highlights how much victims already blame themselves ***
Should you be responsible for the way someone else hears your well intentioned advice? No. Are some of these good, life rules to live by? Yes.
The problem is skipping that step of acknowledging the abuse or the trauma...skipping straight to survivor status dismisses victim status...and that makes me feel dismissed ...makes the abuse or trauma feel dismissed... like it didn't happen... or I should pretend it didn't happen.
It also skips the step of acknowledging that victims have a victim mentality. PS - Victim mentality is not something to be ashamed of, either, but I'll come back to this.
Let's anchor in with some more facts...
Biological mother fact: Your body physiologically changes at the moment of conception, and while it can eventually find it’s way back to a pre-pregnancy state in some ways, in other ways (both visible and hidden) it is forever and undoably different.
Victim fact: When abuse/trauma is experienced, your brain is physiologically changed, and while it can eventually find it’s way back to a pre-victim state in some ways, in other ways (both hidden and visible) it is forever and undoably changed.
I said physiologically (not psychologically). Technically both happen but since people tend to relate to physical injuries easier than mental ones it is essential to note the physiological response to trauma - meaning actual physical changes happen
No-one disputes the first fact about pregnancy; some may dispute the second about trauma. However, you can’t change facts with your opinion (bold and underlined a trillion times). Science backed and proven…trauma and abuse change your brain.
They change how the brain processes information and reacts to that information; trauma or abuse literally rewire the neural functioning of the brain.
Also a fact... trauma can rewire the neural pathways of a fetus and add to the grip of generational trauma.
Please let me be clear...this is NOT a public service announcement giving victims permission to accept the negative side effects and live an un-empowered life, and YES, if a brain can be rewired once, it can be rewired again...but not by shaming, blaming or ignoring the facts.
This IS a public service announcement that it’s ok to not be ok and that victim is not a dirty word.
Why am I bringing this up? Two reasons:
One: I want you to understand that you are normal if you are feeling like you’re not yourself
FUCKED UP SIDE NOTE FUN FACT
Mental energy is a thing just like physical energy so if your brain is experiencing physiological changes, you’re gonna be more tired.
If your brain is dealing with new friends (hello anxiety), you’re gonna be tired.
Two: It’s all going to loop back together with my grand finale big finish where I ask you to rethink how we use the word victim. Woot woot!! Are you as excited as me?!
Great! Now, so far, I don’t think I’ve said much that can be argued against… ‘cause facts (google it). I’m gonna keep checking in though ‘cause if at any point you disagree with me, I want us to be clear on where the breakdown happened.
OK… let’s put our waders on and get into the loophole swamp! ( and start unleashing some of my pent up FTW rant energy!)
"These things that have happened to you, are not ok"
Those were the words that moved me to survivor status after 30 freaking years of being stuck as a closet victim. I’d like to save someone else 30 years with this lifeline thought… victim is not a dirty word. I'm gonna say it as many times as I need to.
You cannot control becoming a victim. You cannot stop being a victim until you admit you are a victim. You cannot admit you’re a victim when society tells you it’s not ok to be one. You cannot control becoming a victim.
That’s the nutshell version. It loops on itself. There is no way out of it unless we can change the way we speak about being a victim.
Checking in... what do you think?
I think you can't leap to courage, confidence, and empowerment quotes before you admit what happened to you was damaging.
Seriously…would you jump up after being raped filled with the pride of being a survivor, or would you need a few moments to process that shit?
Becoming a survivor is a journey that can only be successful if you’re allowed to acknowledge that you were (or, more accurately, ARE) a victim.
See, I don't think victim is something you can just take off like a coat. I don't think you ever stop being a victim unless time goes backwards and the abuse or the trauma never happened.
We need to NOT skip steps
My conclusions are based on facts AND my experience …with
the assumption that, (so help me God or Universe or Fluffy Pink Frogs), I CANNOT be the only one!
Here’s my thoughts assembled as best I can with my squirrel mind.
Every time someone says, “don’t be a victim”, “don’t play the victim card”, “don’t live as a victim", or one of my cringe favs, “don’t have a victim mentality”, that language makes me feel more victimized - that I did something wrong by ‘letting’ myself become a victim, that I am doing something wrong because I've had some victim reactions, and 100% totally ashamed of wherever I am in the healing process because I haven’t managed to leap over the wall from victimhood to survivorland in one graceful bound.
Words matter. (I’m not really sure you can debate this ‘cause that ship has been anchored in ‘this is fact’ waters for a while now)
Example: ‘John beat Mary’ makes us feel differently than ‘Mary is a battered woman’. More importantly, it makes Mary feel differently.
Victim blaming is not ok, dude. (you can disagree with this but I see tar and feather in your future if you do)
Example: Instead of focusing on the question, ‘what was she wearing?’, we ask, ‘why didn’t he stop?’
But we violate both of these premises all the time with four succinct and socially accepted words: “Don’t be a victim.”
GEEZUS FUCK, what kind of victim blaming crap is that?!
Cue the rant...
Let’s start with the news flash that no victim was immaculately concepted into being. I’ve covered this already but for those of you taking notes... highlight this part!
By definition of the word, every single person who has victim status has it because an abuser or a trauma event happened. You cannot do it to yourself and no-one chooses it. And yet we tell people not to be something they had no choice in becoming. That’s like telling a women who’s given birth not to be a mother (biologically).
Didn’t we all agree on this in my calm and rational prelude?
Being a victim ISN'T a personality trait; it's an event that happened to us, changed us, and will forever shape us. So WHY are we shaming people for it? Why are we placing the blame for being a victim ON the victim?
When everything about the word victim makes it dirty and negative and weak and shameful, and then we place that label on someone who had no choice in gaining that status, we force all those negative associations onto that person as well.
Is that supposed to create strong survivors? How many children do you know who have thrived by overhearing their parents talk about how much of a burden their kids are? How many young girls have adopted a healthy body image by listening to the media’s views on what a woman’s body should look like?
Imagine you got pushed out of a row boat into the water. You are labeled by definition as wet. Everything you hear about being wet is negative. Wet is cold, slippery, sinking. Stop acting so wet. Stop shivering. We don’t want wet people, so hurry up and get dry so you can get back here up here and contribute to the rowing. Leave all that wetness behind you and just move on already. Dry people are productive and happy. Why can’t you be dry? Just act like a dry person and you’ll get drier.
Ridiculous, right? But ... "Don’t be a victim (wet), be a survivor (dry)!”
FUN FACT (repeated for the cheap seats)
You CANNOT be a survivor without FIRST being a victim. Just like you can’t be a grandmother without first being a mother.
In other words (that weren’t mine but I think are brilliant), you CANNOT leave a place you’ve never arrived at!
That’s a biggie. Take a moment with it.
In order to LEAVE victimhood to become a survivor, I need to ARRIVE at victimhood first… and who the hell wants to do that when being a victim means being a weak and irresponsible person who did this socially unacceptable thing and got themselves dealt a victim status card.
BEAUTIFUL SIDE NOTE FUN FACT
Being a grandmother doesn’t end your career as a mother, make you less of a mother, or take away from everything you learned as a mother. In fact some would say, being a mother teaches you a ton of useful shit about yourself, even when being a mother sucks.
Therefore, being a survivor does not end your journey as a victim, make your experience any less traumatizing, or take away from everything you learned as a victim. In fact, every victim I know will tell you that while they would never wish their trauma/abuse on anyone else and that experiencing it is NOT something they can be grateful for, they ARE grateful for what they learned about themselves and the strength and courage they discovered because they were a victim.
But we still think it’s ok to say, “Don't be a victim.”
We still associate victim mentality with helplessness, blaming others, not taking responsibility.
HERE'S A THOUGHT >>>>
( I don't believe in complaining unless you try to contribute toward a solution)
Instead of saying “you've got a victim mentality”, we say “ It sounds like you’re suffering from side effects of abuse or trauma"...
One of those phrases puts the blame squarely on the victim and the other one puts the blame on the abuse or trauma.
Instead of saying “you're acting like such a victim”, we say “ It seems like you’re holding onto thought patterns that you needed to survive your abuse/trauma"...
Only the second statement allows the victim to take responsibility without shaming.
"You throw like a girl." Isn't that a phrase we used to use but now say it insults being female and suggests they are less than?
I didn't choose the label of victim when I was abused any more than I chose 'girl' because I have a vagina. If we defend being a girl, why do we shame being a victim?
We’ve changed our language around handicap and weight and race and gender based on these same principles…why haven’t we changed the language around the word victim?
Or... we invent a new word. Continue using victim as derogatory undesirable, but create a new word for someone who has experienced abuse or trauma.
We've done it for ethnic and gender reasons when a word has taken on so much negative connotation that it becomes an insult, haven't we?
If you’ve been abused or you’ve experienced trauma… boom, you are a victim. Just like that. No turning back. No choice in the matter. Done deal. You can’t un-be a victim.
Which means ’don’t be a victim’ is an impossible piece of advice that instantly makes the victim feel like they are in the wrong... and we need to stop fucking saying it.
IMAGINE THIS >>>>
IMAGINE if victim wasn’t a dirty word that made you want to deny any association with it?? What if accepting victim status didn’t automatically align you with negative personality traits? What if it was just like being called Canadian because you live in Canada or pregnant because you’re with child?
Would you be better able to ARRIVE at victim land and then LEAVE it as a stronger, wiser version of yourself (aka survivor) if victim was just a way to describe someone who had experienced a certain situation?
Would you BELIEVE you could move through the stages of victimhood in a healthy way if you weren’t always hearing negative things about victims and victim mentality?
THINK ABOUT THE VICTIM PHRASES WE USE
and the ways we make them dirty (but not in a fun way)
Fuk the what?! How do I tell anyone I was abused if I’m not allowed to be a victim? Admitting I was abused automatically and by definition, makes me a victim, so in order to not be a victim, I can't have been abused…except I was abused or traumtized… and that means I am... what? Do I even exist? Arghhhh!!
Ummmm contradiction much?? If I was abused/traumatized, I am a victim of that. What else can I possibly be?!
Yes yes yes I know – a survivor…except no – we’ve been over that - STOP skipping steps!
What if I told you to get undressed but not be naked… Jump in that lake but don’t be wet… Stay alive but don’t be human. You’ve been cut, but don’t bleed. Admit you were abused/traumatized but DON'T be a victim.
If you want people to be stronger and move on from trauma, they have to be ok with being a victim first. And “don’t be a victim”, tells us it is not ok. The end. I rest my case. Except also...
Ummmm no. Just no. ‘Play victim'?? If I admit I’m a victim, I am playing a game… I’m making it up? I am making myself look pitiful? Pointing a finger at my abuser is not strong woman behaviour? I can’t be strong if I’m a victim? Just… NO! Victims don't ‘play’ at being a victim and they had to be stronger than you can imagine in order to survive. What a bullshit piece of victim blaming crap sentence.
Tough love, right? Except it just handily aligned a bunch of negative traits alongside being a victim. Complaining, drama, blaming…sure - get rid of it. Nonsense. But stop associating all that with victims unless you’re going to give equal representation to the positive traits victims also have… (those traits you want to reserve for survivors)
...because victims and survivors are the same people! And if you don't acknowledge the positive qualities within someone who KNOWS they are, by definition, a victim, they stop believing they have them.
Where is the abuser, (or the trauma) in our victim language? Nowhere. The blame is landing on me for ‘allowing’ myself to have become a victim. How fucking silly of me.
John beat Mary (abuser called out) or...
Mary is a battered woman (look what kind of person Mary is)
I'm suggesting that the language around the word victim WILL do one of two things:
Give victims a hand getting back in the boat when they're drowning in the water they were pushed into
Beat them on the head with a paddle for daring to have been pushed in the water at all
We spew so much negativity at the word victim; we make it such an ugly thing.
Abuse is ugly...trauma is ugly; victim is human. It isn't something we get rid of... but we can turn scabs that break open easily, into scars that remind us of our strength.
I'm suggesting that survivor and victim are neither good nor bad but when we shun the part of someone that they already feel shame about, we actually draw out more of the negative side effects of abuse or trauma and push down the positive potential.
Would you break a leg and expect to vault over a wall anytime soon? No... you'd rest, recover, heal, relearn, gather strength...and you'd do it believing this was normal.
Why can't we extend the same respect to someone healing from a mental wound?
I’ll say again… being a victim isn’t a personality trait; it is an event that happened to us, changed us, and will forever shape us, but does not define us as bad or good.
Being a survivor isn’t a personality trait either. It is place we work to stay in despite all that has happened; and we shouldn’t have to gain entrance through a shady back alley called the victim walk of shame.
One day I walked into a counselling office and, for the
first time in my life, told my whole abuse story from beginning to end and
fully expected the therapist to tell me to stop being a victim. I honestly
believed that is what she would say.
I knew I was being weak for breaking down and complaining and admitting my life was a mess because I couldn’t get my act together.
I mean, I’d read all the quotes and books, I was smart and supported by friends and I'd tried so hard to put everything in the past. Really I shouldn’t have been acting like such a bloody victim.
So I sat there pathetically, (bravely), doing the ugly cry with that unique blend of snot and tears that disintegrate kleenex, (acknowledging the truth), and waiting for the tough love pat on the head of ‘don’t you feel better for getting that all out and now it’s time to move on with your life’ (minimizing my experience). Instead, I heard this …
"These things that have happened to you, are not ok"
In that moment, I learned it was ok to be a victim… that it was ok to not be ok… that admitting I was a victim was a brave thing to do and that it was the only way to stop being one. Why had nobody ever said THAT before?
Acknowledging I am a victim WITHOUT attaching shame, negativity, or guilt, allowed me to recognize and accept that wherever I am in the healing process at any given moment is just fine.
Victim and survivor are not a one way linear path. They exist on a sliding continuum within the same person... two labels that must exist together in order for either to exist.
I SHOULD NOT be farther along than I am. There are lessons to be learned at each stage. I can’t skip ahead to the end; I have to walk through ALL the parts of being a victim, even the ugly parts. When I finally accepted being a victim, I could finally accept being a survivor.
I remember walking out of a counselling appointment at the sexual assault centre, (it was Christmas time), and being offered one of the gifts that had been donated for 'victims of abuse'. I vividly remember feeling soooo confused as to why they would be offering this to me.
I knew I had been abused, but I still didn't think I 'qualified' as a victim. And tbh, I didn't want to accept a gift that I viewed as pity for a poor, helpless victim. "I'm strong now... I'm NOT one of THOSE women."
The counsellor looked at me with endless patience and said, "You deserve kindness. You have experienced horrible things and, however you did it, you're still here. These gifts are for women exactly like you."
I realized in that moment that I had still been placing my own judgement on being a victim. Victims were still this group of people to feel sorry for because they obviously weren't strong enough to be survivors. They were over there in the victim club complaining, crying, living in shelters, numbing pain in unhealthy ways, making poor life decisions... and I was better than that.
Wow... talk about buying into a stereotype; talk about glass houses.
I have an idea that there are many victims in this world who, like me, have never wanted to be thought of as victims...have never wanted to be associated with the negativity of victim and have tried to skip to survivor.
If that's you, my psychic skills tell me you have scabs that fester and keep breaking open so it feels like your life never comes together... you never feel good enough because you can't shake the 'victim mentality' even though you do everything the self-help books say strong survivors should do, you overcompensate by trying to make everything perfect and cannot forgive yourself when things aren't, you're drained from the effort of the showing the world who you want to be when reality "is what it is" and you "don't really have anything to complain about".
It breaks my heart to think of all the people stuck as victims simply because we've made the word an unbearable label to wear. If we change that, we change everything.
Words matter. The most dangerous words in the world are, “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Maybe it’s time for something different. What do you think?