NOT A VICTIM...OR A SURVIVOR
By Deb Owen: I don’t tell people this. I know the looks, the judgements, the ideas people have of ‘that’ kind of woman. I’ve listened as people have said time and time again:
“I’m so surprised you’d let someone.....”
I am a woman who has been in an abusive relationship. And not just one, but three. Though the time I stayed in the latter was much much less than the first.
The label? Victim.
It was shocking to most people who knew then. I'm still usually met with shock when people learn of it now.
I come from a solid, close, middle-class family. There aren’t any cycles or patterns in my history that were being repeated. Nothing in my background, my life outside these relationships, would lead someone to suspect these were the relationships I’d choose. I’ve had success in my career. I’ve accomplished things.
So maybe you can understand when i say I am not a victim. To call myself victim is to let all those other labels those men used to convince me I had no better option than to stay with them true. Helpless. Hopeless. Stupid. Pushover. Useless. Unlovable. Undesirable. Ugly. The list goes on.
To call myself victim is to say that I have no choice, that I have no power. (There was a time when I believed that with every fiber in me.) I am not a victim. Or even a former victim. I have choices. I had choices then, too -- I just didn’t know it.
I’m not a survivor either. To label myself as a survivor still identifies me as who I was then, and as the woman those men would have me be. To call myself a survivor gives too much power to my past, bringing it with me into today.
In those relationships, I had no idea who I was. I had no deep sense of my own identity. I let others define me, identify me, and label me. After, I was filled with guilt and shame, filled with anger towards myself for allowing myself to be in those places to begin with. I was full of fear, wondering if this was all there was for me. I was lost.
But it wasn’t all there was for me. There was so much more. As I started taking small steps, reaching out for help, doing the next best thing I could do ... I met grace. More was done for me than I could have done for myself. More than I would have even begun to ask for or imagine possible. I discovered generosity, joy, peace, and love. I was found.
Today, I know who I am. I found my identity and only One labels me. Today, I have strength and dignity. I smile at today, and at the future.
I am renewed. I am restored. I am whole. I am loved. I am changed. I am new. I am free.
I am People of the Second Chance.