Victim or Survivor – Powerless or Empowered

Until recently any person who had experienced child sexual abuse was referred to as a victim. However, I have noted, and been informed, that many now prefer to be referred to as survivors.

I ponder the difference.

What differentiates a victim from a survivor?

I have always considered myself a victim – the hopelessness of being powerless is a binding thread throughout Finding Mary, whereas it seems those who consider themselves survivors feel they have been empowered. That empowerment apparently occurs if the person is able to tell their story, be believed, confront and/or charge the perpetrator and feel as if there has been some justice, some retribution.

None of these scenarios were possible for me. With total amnesia of my childhood I had no ‘story’ to tell. With no proof I had no ability to even tell my story, let alone see justice. I spent months in a refuge in the hope of charging my brother but without being able to quote dates/times/places/ incidents it was impossible.

I wrote:

‘Several futile months passed. After exhausting all possibilities I had been rendered powerless and defeated once more. Once more incensed with myself for being unable to end this madness. I had not achieved a resolution. I had not been able to remove James from our lives.

Powerless. A word like any other but do we ever consider its true meaning? Ineffable anger had compelled me to face this monumental fear of not being believed, of being told I was crazy, of being institutionalised, because I could no longer witness this monster wreaking torment and terror and abuse on those around me and there was nothing I could do. To be thwarted in every conceivable way I had tried to save and protect people from incomprehensible suffering, and see justice, I had failed.

That annihilation, that total devastation, cannot be described; it is an abyss, a hollowness, a vacuity that cannot be imparted. It was impossible to believe I would ever feel a normal emotion again’.

Some would believe, including the psychologist who first suggested it, that writing a book may provide empowerment – but apparently not – at least not yet.

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