I know this might sound weird, but there is a word in the English dictionary that I simply despise – in fact,  I despise it just as much in other languages. If there is one word that has the ability to not only break someone but also make them seem weak, it is this word: victim. If you have also been through and survived an abusive situation, you probably can relate. I have been through most of the types of abuse there are and being called a victim of them is almost triggering as it makes me feel like I am back in those situations.

People that have never been through an abusive situation, and maybe some that have, possibly don’t understand why and how that word can be so pejorative. Let me ask you this question: if you think of someone that is a victim of something, how do you picture them? Do you see someone that is weak, in pain, hunched over, with someone towering over them? Or do you see someone that is living life as best as they can? Probably the former, right? This is why I hate the term victim. For people who have been the victim of something, being called that can bring them back to the emotions they felt during the period of abuse.

You may have noticed I kind of just called the person a victim, but there is a difference in what I meant. I will say that in the time I was suffering the abuse – from the ages of 5 to 14 – I was a victim. Past tense. In the time it happened, yes, I was a victim. 8 years after the fact, that is not the term that I want to be associated with. Now, I am a survivor, a warrior. By getting out of the victim mentality, I was better able to start my healing process and to start moving on from my past, while leaving it where it is supposed to be – in the past.

Some people will probably feel differently than me, but this was what I noticed in the support groups I have joined to help me heal from my traumas: the consensus was that the term victim is better used when talking about the past, but survivor or warrior with regards to the future. While all of us might wish we could take back what happened to us, that’s not something we can do. By victimizing ourselves, we get stuck in that mentality and in those memories, while we distance ourselves from them by calling ourselves survivors.

What can be some of the steps in going from victim to survivor?

  • Accept the abuse/trauma you have gone through
  • Start the healing process
  • Realize what happened is in the past (hopefully)
  • Begin leaving the past in the past, and living in the present

None are easy steps, but eventually, they become necessary in order for us to heal from what we went through. The longer that we mull over what we went through, the longer we live with the pain associated with the memories, and the longer it takes for us to heal. If any of you are feeling the same pain I felt, I know that’s definitely not what you want.

It might not seem like a big step to take – changing your mentality from that of a victim to that of a survivor – and it actually is, and it’s also not as easy as it might seem. It can be easy to get caught up in the feeling of not being able to let go of the hurt of what you’ve been through and to feel like these feelings will never go away or get better. It would be wonderful if we could just heal from a magic potion and never feel the pain of it ever again, but that’s just not the case – nor will it ever be.

To go from a victim perspective to a survivor one, it takes not only accepting the reality of you having gone through these horrific situations that no one deserves to go through and to slowly – but steadily – begin to leave these memories in the past. This is the type of scar that will never leave us, unfortunately, but the pain will slowly subside and never go back to being as bad as it was at the beginning of your journey of healing.

As much as I wish I could tell you to start trying to move towards the survivor mentality, I know that’s a step you need to take when you feel ready to do so, and pressure definitely does not help make the process any faster or easier. So, I’ll say this much, whether you feel ready or not, I have no doubt that you are one incredibly strong human being from making out of whatever abusive situation you have been through and to have the courage to seek help – independently if it’s just by reading this blog or by seeking a professional – not many people have the guts or the strength to do it.

While not many people around you might understand what you went through and the pain you are in, this blog is an environment where you can feel safe and welcomed to share your story – if you feel comfortable doing so. Being an abuse survivor is no easy task, and if no one has told you this so far, I am proud of how far you’ve come. I don’t care if you are still stuck in bed or if you’re living life putting a mask on in front of people, every small accomplishment we make – from simply getting out of bed in the morning, to writing a full report for work – counts.

by Bruna Gorresio