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To the People Who Tell Me to Stop Calling Myself a 'Victim'

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

The word “victim” is defined as a person harmed, injured or killed as a result of a crime, accident or other event or action. Given that I have developed PTSD and had scratches or inflamed red areas many times, saying that I am not a victim is simply inaccurate by the literal definition. 

• What is PTSD?

However, there’s far more to this situation than the simple logistics of words. To say that I am not a victim invalidates the pain I’ve experienced. To say I’m not a victim is to say I was not hurt.

For you to say I’m not a victim makes my mind go into a whirlwind of questions, immediately doubting myself. “Was it really that bad?” “Am I just overreacting?” “Were my flashbacks severe enough to be called PTSD?” “Were they right about me?” “Am I just as dramatic, manipulative and controlling as they said I was?” “Am I the unstable one after all?” These questions consume my mind as it’s taking all I can do just to keep myself from going into constant flashback mode. Because that alone is consuming all of my energy, I am unable to stop the guilt trip in my mind. It’s the automatic thought process they implanted in my mind. They managed to continue to hurt me even when I’m away from them.

My depression creeps in and I begin to feel worthless, once again. I feel I’m the burden they always said I was; I begin to feel like I’m not worth anything at all.

I hear your words replaying like a record in my mind. “You are not a victim.” “Stop calling yourself a victim.” “Other people have it worse.” “No one really hurt you.” “Stop calling yourself a victim.” “You are not a victim.” “You are not a victim.” “You are not a victim.”

These words are literally saying I was not hurt. They are implying I never had reason to get a protective order or move out immediately after turning 18. They are saying my flashbacks are insignificant. They say the pain I’ve felt for all of these years isn’t really any pain at all. These words say it was OK for me to get dragged up the stairs by my right ear, or to be locked in a room as someone screamed so loud that my ears hurt, threatening to abandon me completely as a small child.

I need the word “victim.” I need to be able to validate my own experiences; I need to admit to myself I was hurt. I need to admit I was significantly harmed in ways words could never describe. I need to know it’s OK to feel pain sometimes. I need to know there is support out there. I need to know there are people who will listen to my story with compassion and without judgment. I need to know it wasn’t my fault. I need to know I didn’t cause this pain. I need to know there’s nothing wrong with me.

So please, next time you hear me say the word “victim,” pause before you respond. Think about how you would feel if someone were to invalidate the worst pain you’ve ever felt. Remember that just because I’m away from the situation doesn’t necessarily mean my mind isn’t still there.

There are days when I feel just as awful as I did when I was presently living in the situation. There are days when the feeling of insecurity takes over the brokenness I feel in my heart. There are days when the flashbacks feel so real that I completely forget I’m safe now. On those days, I need to be called a victim. I need to know I’m not at fault. I need to know it’s OK for me to feel this pain.

I will continue to call myself a victim. I will continue to validate my pain. I will not let your words put the blame on me. I am a victim, and I always will be, but that doesn’t mean I can’t rise above the things that hurt me.

Unsplash photo via Frankie Cordoba

Originally published: March 12, 2018
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