The Victim Spiral


[Image: A rainbow swirl.]

I’ve heard people levy criticism against feminism based on the idea that feminism tells women that they are victims and forces them into a “victim mentality” they can allegedly never escape. People act as though ignoring your past and continuing to ignore what is currently happening prevents people from seeing themselves as helpless, which, according to them, can only improve society. But feminism isn’t about helplessness. It never has been. It’s about recognizing your past, your vulnerability, and finding your inner strength to overcome it and live a complete, full life no matter what you’ve gone through.

I once read an article written by a rape survivor on a popular feminist site. I know it’s never a good idea to read the comments, even on what should be a space for feminists, but I did. Apparently some people used the hard-hitting, emotional piece to declare that the author was wallowing in her own self-pity and sorrow and with the echo chamber of feminism, she would never be expected to do anything ever again because she had survived this and now all you can expect from her, as a feminist, is to complain about how terrible men are.

Although it shouldn’t have shocked me, I was appalled at the re-victimization of a woman who had been drugged, beaten, and sexually violated by someone that she trusted. What happened to her was an awful, awful thing. And instead of recognizing that part of telling her story is to reclaim what happened to her, put it into her own words, and freely discuss how this impacted her life, those who are against women being recognized as people, saw it as a time to shame her and try to undermine her emotions and her experience.

If you are raped, then you are a rape victim. But that’s all it means. I find it very troubling when people who have not experienced something tell others that have how they should deal with their experience and how they are allowed to talk about it. If you want people to stop feeling helpless, then don’t criticize whatever outlet they find to regain their voice as silly, pointless, or self-indulgent. Trauma victims will find their own way to cope with their trauma and no stranger on the internet has the authority to tell them that their way is wrong.

It seems that most people who want to claim that women see themselves as frail victims never realize that they are actively working against some of the ways that these same women find empowerment. It’s shaming women for being a victim, then shaming them for trying to rediscover their power. You can’t do both and claim that you are a decent person or that you even have a valid point. Just because victimization doesn’t look like something you’ve experienced and just because regaining control doesn’t look like a way that you would do it doesn’t mean that either one is wrong. It means that this is something that you don’t understand and you need to back the fuck off.

It’s very distressing to think about how some people want to treat women as robots who live through whatever horrible thing happened to them, completely ignore the repercussions of the action, then go about their lives as happy, shiny people without a care in the world. Because, as we all know, no woman can have a real problem caused by a system of oppression in America. It’s all down to individual women who can’t handle their shit that whine and moan to anyone who will listen. And that’s exactly how they are treated by society.

When it comes to how a victim of any kind of trauma deals with it, it’s not up for other people to regulate it, police it, and monitor it. Particularly when their method of dealing with a terrible event is to talk about it openly, raise awareness about it, and alleviate the burden of carrying around such an awful secret. Only the person that experienced the trauma knows what will help them and with a support system around them, they can work through their problems. Someone completely outside of the situation who is skeptical of the events that took place to harm them does not get to decide how they should be treated for their condition and how they should publicly discuss it.