A while ago, someone told me I have this talent of telling my story of being a survivor while making people see me as a victim. Simultaneously being strong and weak. It was suggested, I stop telling people. For a time, I did. I’m finding it hard to get back into talking about it because I don’t want to be seen as a victim, but that’s unavoidable.
I realized three things. First, I can’t control how people perceive me nor is it my problem. If someone is going to judge or think less of me for this, I don’t want them in my life. Second, I asked myself why I share my story. In a way, it’s cathartic. It’s definitely not because I’m an attention whore, which has also been suggested in the past. I mean really, who wants to be known as the girl who got raped? I used to think I tell my story for all of those who can’t, but that’s not true. I tell my story so others can tell their stories. There is a big difference between the two. If I am here and inspire someone else to speak, then maybe their speaking will inspire someone else. So on and so forth until there is an orchestra of voices telling our stories different but the same calling for change. I will not impact global change with my voice alone, but what if there are a thousand voices like mine? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? A million? I am not the only one to be seen as strong and weak, survivor and victim. Maybe, I’m the only one you see. And until you see someone else, I’ll be here. Third, I don’t like either term: survivor or victim. I prefer one over the other, but neither suit me.
I am raped. I was a victim of rape. I am a survivor of rape. I am both; it’s impossible to be one without the other. I am all of these things and more. Why pretty this up to make you feel better about something I went through with my eyes open? Why must I give terms connoting weakness or strength? Does it make you feel better thinking of me as a survivor? Someone who overcame atrocities? Does it make you feel better thinking of me as a victim? Someone who was helpless in a moment, I’ll relive for the rest of my ever?
I am raped. My body was raped. My soul was raped. My heart was raped. There is no part of me that is left unraped. It is an adjective that has become an integral part of my essence. Did I ask for this? No. Did I deserve this? No. Was any of it ever my fault? No. None of that matters because the past is set, and I will forever consider it when considering myself because without it I am no longer this version of me. For all my idiosyncrasies, weaknesses, and strengths, I for some reason like who I am. Raped and all. In this self, I am strong. In this self, I am weak. I cry; I shudder; I look over my shoulder; I hide; I jump, and yet I stand, I thrive, I work, I wake, I write, I speak. I am both victim and survivor. Neither makes me any less strong or any more weak. They are just different nouns prescribed to me. I was faced with two choices. Within those choices, I went with the one that didn’t sound weak. Today, I am putting my liberal arts education to use and choosing neither noun. I am making my own option and choosing an adjective: raped. But that makes you uncomfortable.
Being in this body, in this psyche is uncomfortable for me. Maybe I’ll be comfortable inhabiting myself someday. That day is not today.