Victim or Survivor

Warning: triggers for survivors of sexual abuse may follow. 

Do you ever really survive childhood sexual abuse? We call those that live into adulthood, survivors. Today I am not entirely sure we do survive, or maybe that is just me. 

Yesterday I heard a story. A young girl woke up to find an older male in her bed. She left, under the guise of using the bathroom, and told her parents. 

I am so proud of her. 

And of society. 

When I was a child, there was no child protection legislation, no lessons taught at school, no discussion. 

It wasn’t talked about at home or amongst friends. Not at all, to my knowledge. And lots of children from the sixties, seventies and eighties grew up not disclosing prevalent sexual abuse to anyone. But they carried the long term impact. 

Hearing her story yesterday, her uncertainty regarding what actually happened, and chatting to another student today about how he doesn’t remember much about the past, has triggered me. As well as hearing today that something I said in fun yesterday has really caused another person profound pain. 

Triggered. 

What does this mean in real terms?

Well, I’m sad this afternoon. I am overtaken by my own limited memories. My own brain’s repression of much of my past, including events as recently as five years ago. The frustration that arises because of this protective armour. 

I’m sad for her. 

And I’m hoping that the access to counsellors and support will make her different to me. I’m hoping that she hasn’t lost her ability to trust, that she won’t run from emotional intimacy, that her sexuality hasn’t been compromised for her adult life; that she will engage in healthy adult relationships, have a wonderful partner and conceive beautiful children as she celebrates her survival. I’m hoping that surviving, for her, will mean more than just staying alive. 

That her life will be normal

That she won’t start valuing herself, believing in herself, fulfilling her potential when she is 44. That it all won’t come late for her. 

So, victim or survivor? I don’t know. Is it possible to be a victimised survivor, and can that mean more than just staying alive, choosing life, being alive. 

I don’t know. 

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