Wednesday, 2 November 2011

I was a victim, and I’m proud.

Seeing what we were victims of can liberate us from the past. Seeing what we were victims of ... that sounds so simple, doesn’t it? 

More than 20 years ago I discovered that it isn’t. I came out of the victim closet in the 1980s, and took responsibility for having betrayed and suppressed my own inner child, who said: "Yes, I have survived. And I know what I want you to do for me: Listen to me. Believe what I say. Do something about it. Show me that I can trust you."

I made this choice, and became “a difficult case” in the health services. Eventually I was diagnosed as a borderline psychotic when I rejected the psychotherapeutic reality that I had been seduced by a priest and had a sexual relationship with him in childhood.  

The health services insisted on stuffing me into a "mental disorder" closet and throwing away the key, but luckily I had a chance to stay away from them and the experts who insisted on defining reality for me. In other areas of my life I made a wonderful discovery: Once I was out of the closet, it ceased to exist. 

At the time I was a vocal and active member of a Support Centre Against Incest, and we were adamant about rejecting the V word and calling ourselves survivors. That has not helped much. Now, almost 30 years later, there seems to be even more stigma and shame, even more ignorance and misconceptions, attached to the situation of having been used by adults when we were children, sexually or otherwise.

Normal and almost universally accepted psychotherapeutic interpretations of reality are a huge part of the problem, as I see it. Instead of asking "What has happened to you?" the experts have been asking "What's wrong with you?” – or even worse “What's wrong with the patient?"

That has created a culture that sees personality disorders and chemical imbalances in the brain instead of seeing strong, gutsy people who get on with living in spite of unhealed wounds and heavy burdens caused by harm done to them when they were children.  

As I see it, a child who has been used by adults can be compared to a child that has been run over by a car. A traffic victim. There is no shame attached to that, and maybe admiration of the guts and bravery that keeps traffic victims alive and can get them back on their feet.

I have decided to retake the V word. I was run over by adults. I was a victim of adult use. 

There are so many ways in which adults use children, and I'll lump them all under one umbrella: adults use children as objects of addiction. Instead of using drugs or alcohol, adults, often unconsciously, use the power they have over vulnerable, helpless kids in an attempt to make themselves feel better, stronger, more in control. And in doing so, they are invisibly ramming into children and running over them.
And here my analogy fails. No one has been run over by the same car or cars day after day, year in and year out, all their formative years. The whole idea is preposterous.

Yet children are used by adults in this way. They are mentally and physically run into and over and crushed and smashed, day after day, year in and year out. And very often, nobody sees this, nobody hears this, nobody speaks out against this.

I was one of these children.
I was a victim of adult abuse of power.
I was a victim of adult power of definition.
And now I’m getting old.
And I'm alive.
And I´m proud.

And I’m thinking: Maybe we, who have and have had visible symptoms of childhood wounds and burdens, need our own civil rights movement, need to give ourselves the right to our own life story, our own definitions of reality. 

And sometimes, when I’m alone, I play a James Brown video and sing along with my own words:

Do you want to join me? 

Say it loud: “I was a victim, and I’m proud!”  


  1. Hi,

    I'm interested in the possibilities of healing and transformation beyond victimhood or survivorhood. I was groomed and abused as an adolescent by a priest and his friend. In 2002, the memories surfaced and I went through a kind of breakdown and have done quite a bit of transformation. My workbook, "Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters" maps out this journey. Peace.

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  3. Unknown, I deleted my original answer, as I have decided not to buy your book. My immediate impression, from what I have read about it, is not positive. The expression "the sin of sexual abuse" raises my hackles. I prefer to look at HARM done to children, as you can see in the blog post that you are commenting.

    And there seems to be a focus on faith in your book, whereas a secular POV that is a central theme in my whole blog.

    So we seem to look at the problem from very different cognitive frames.

    So different, in fact, that I don't understand why you thought your book would interest me.


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