It has been over 4 years since my own rape, and most of that time, I thought of myself as a victim. But the thing is, I’m not one . . . anymore at least. I’m a survivor.
I was victimized in particular situations, but staying in that victim mentality was a surefire way to keep the bad habits and continually revictimize myself. And the first step to breaking those habits is changing mindset. Here’s why:
Victim = Demoralizing
By calling myself a victim, I was taking the blame of my own actions off myself. This is not to say that I should be blamed for my own rape. Obviously, I was a victim in that moment.
However, I am to blame if I don’t do anything to help myself afterwards. I am to blame if I continue to make excuses for myself. For months after my assault, I barely took care of myself. I wouldn’t get out of bed most days, and usually when I did, copious amounts of alcohol were involved. I justified it to myself and (drunkenly) to others because I was a vicitm. But does being a victim in one incident justify months of bad behavior? Could I forever get away with being that girl crying to anyone who would listen at the bar? Well, I probably would have run out of friends.
During this time, everything going wrong in my life (which was seemingly all of it) was blamed on my rapist. As if any and all misfortunes were out of my control. I was helpless and half expected someone to sweep in and make all of my problems just disappear. Or maybe I’d just wake up one day and all the worries and troubles would be gone. You can guess how well that worked. Nothing really changes if you’re not taking action.
Survivor = empowering
Action starts in your mind. If you want to graduate college, you have to pass your classes. And to pass your classes, you have to study. You don’t just wake up one day and know all the answers. But before you can even start studying, you have to have the right mentality. The same concept applies here. Before you can truly recover or get where you want in your healing process, you have to get your mind right. That starts with thinking of yourself as a survivor, even if you don’t feel like one, ESPECIALLY so.
Usually those who live through tragic accidents or tough situations are referred to as having survived the situation, so why should sexual assault be any different. Regardless of whether the assault was particularly violent or not, the physical and emotional trauma can have devastating long term effects. As long as you are pushing through the pain, you are surviving. Give yourself some credit.
For such a long time, I felt that I didn’t deserve it either. Rape essentially killed a part of me, and I had to cope without that piece . . . not easy. But that subtle mental shift–from victim to survivor mentality–made me feel kind of badass. Like yeah, I was raped, and I could have let it kill me, but you know what? I rose above that shit and didn’t let it kill me, or my spirit. You deserve to feel that way too. Recognize that the simple act of not letting it get you down is a feat in itself. Remind yourself everyday that you are strong and beautiful and deserving. You’ve gone to hell and back, and you’re still here to tell the tale. You can own your story or let it own you.
But don’t let a bad day get you down
With all that said though, give yourself the time needed to make this mental transition. Sometimes sitting in that victim mode is a necessary step of the process. And that’s okay. So even if you’ve been falling victim to victim mentality, don’t beat yourself up about it. That’s only feeding the inner victim and pulling you further down that spiral. Look back, reflect, and learn from your thought patterns.
When you’re ready, pull yourself out of the victim trap. You are a survivor, and every single day that you keep yourself alive, you keep surviving. Remind yourself of that. Take pride in that. And if you’re up for it, put on that song by Destiny’s Child and really feel it. Like with anything else, you won’t find yourself magically feeling better overnight, but it’s a solid first step in the path to recovery. Celebrate each step of the journey.