Why 'Victim' Perfectly Describes My Experience of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

It’s taken years. I’m 21 now and still, even after not living in the abusive environment from my childhood for three years, I was only recently able to come to terms with my past. I can now say I was abused out loud, that it’s why I’m in counseling, and why I don’t keep in contact with much of my family. The majority of those in my life have been supportive too, and as much as I appreciate their encouragement, something I’ve noticed lately is the negative reaction I receive when I use the word “victim.”

A good friend of mine said, “Not a victim! A survivor!” when I called myself and my sister victims of abuse. What I thought, but didn’t say, was, “Why not both?”

Why can’t I be both a survivor, stronger for what I went through, and a victim, having lived a normalized life of abuse? Claiming and accepting and using the word “victim” has empowered me in my ongoing healing process. It gives me the ability to remember that what happened wasn’t my fault and nothing I could’ve done would’ve changed anything, because abuse isn’t logical and abusers are only concerned in the power they get from abusing. I had no control over what I was dealt in those instances and I’m validating that fact by accepting I am, in fact, a victim.

The definition of “victim” according to Google is: “A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.” I’d say that applies to those that have been abused. The word is not misused in this context and it saddens me that, even online, in this community, people refuse to accept the word with its ability to give justification to one’s feelings.

“Victim” is not a “bad word” and shouldn’t be treated like such.

Photo by Catalin Sandru on Unsplash

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

watercolor painting illustration set of girl in white dress with red paper birds and lighthouse, hand drawn on paper

How the Toxic Home I Grew Up in Affected My Struggle With Disordered Eating

Eating is a nightmare for me. While I don’t technically have an eating disorder, I definitely struggle with disordered eating. Here’s why. I happen to be “blessed” with the wonderful combination of complex PTSD and food allergies. I grew up in an incredibly toxic home, where everything I did was criticized and belittled. We also [...]
night scenery of boy walking on the floor among many glowing green bottles, digital art style, illustration painting

3 Things I Need (From Myself) to Heal From Past Childhood Trauma

When I was little, I worried about monsters being under my bed. I never expected them to be the ones tucking me in at night. To become aware at such a young age that my soft spot to land in life was nothing more than a rocky cliff that didn’t lessen the pain. This realization [...]
ptsd service dogs

13 Photos That Show How Service Dogs Help People With PTSD Symptoms

It’s no secret having a pet can be beneficial for your health. Cuddling with and walking your pet can be instant mood boosters. But for many people who live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), having not just a pet, but a service dog, can radically improve day-to-day functioning and help them on their journey with PTSD. [...]
Vector art drawing, portrait of sad and depressed girl. Facial expressions, people emotions, romantic and tender young woman. Face side view.

The Mental Health Impact of Cutting a Toxic Parent Out of Your Life

Going no-contact with someone is a really difficult and painful decision. Going no contact with a parent comes with even more grief and challenges. Society has a built in stigma against children who cut parents out of their lives. Particularly daughters who cut out their mothers. It’s as if there’s a silent code that we [...]