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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

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