Friday, January 27, 2012

The Victimization of Victims

Here I am, with another blog post.  I guess, on average, I post maybe once a month, which isn't a lot.  I'm just not one of those people that blog every day or on some kind of regular basis.   I don't want to waste your time -- or mine -- with small talk... you know...  blah, blah, blah.  I never wanted this to be a blahg.  I gotta have something to say. 

I have been thinking about this topic for quite some time. That's what I do. Something gets stuck in my head and sits there, simmering, or maybe festering, like a splinter in my finger that I spend days just hoping it will fall out. It won't fall out. I know I have to do what I don't want to do, and dig it out with a needle.

OK, so this is not that graphic, but I know that this thought just won't go away until I deal with it and talk about it, so here goes.

So I've been advocating for changes to sex offender laws, for what, the last five years, and prior to that, I've been sitting on the side of sex offenders since meeting my husband in 2001.

It's like football. You have two teams: Sex Offenders vs. People Who Hate Sex Offenders. They are battling it out on the field, trying to get possession of the ball and make a touchdown. I don't like football, but there I am, sitting in the bleachers rooting for my team, the underdogs. Who is on the other side rooting for the other team? Victims, that's who. I hate that word. I hate that there even has to BE victims, but there are. And, since Americans have become so victim-oriented, their numbers are growing by the thousands, daily. Victims of everything from boiling hot coffee in the McDonald's drive-thru to victims of horrific crimes such as forced rape and murder. Almost every American is a victim of something.

So, there they are, thousands of them, millions of them, all sitting in the bleachers on the other side chanting their cheers and rooting for their team, which appears to be winning. And, all the while I am rooting for my team, a small still voice says, "they want you to sit on the other side, too." Because, as I have shared before, I am also a victim of child sex abuse.

Only thing is, I'm not. Not any more. And that, my friends, is my point. Ever since my appearance on the Dr. Drew show, when he so luridly suggested I was attracted to pedophiles (excuse me while I vomit), I have been looking within myself and wondering why on earth would someone -- a supposed doctor -- suggest such a thing? That statement really struck a nerve because it was just so plainly WRONG.

Looking back upon my young life and those tender years while I was being molested by a family member, I never once thought of myself as a victim. Not then, and not any time since, and yet, in truth, I was, I really was. I have to acknowledge that fact. I believe the reason I felt I wasn't a victim was because I encouraged the abuse. It wasn't the sex I was seeking, but the closeness and intimacy that comes with it, and as wrong as it was, the relationship I had with the adult who committed the molestation was one out of love. He never forced me, he always approached our encounters with love and affection -- something that was lacking in my life and something that I desparately wanted and needed.

Was I groomed? Yeah, I guess I was. As an adult, I can see that. I never really had considered that before now. I don't think he intentionally set out to groom me and pursue me sexually, I think it was just something that happened, but the bottom line is he should have known better and should not have done it.

After I told my mother about the nature of our relationship, she promptly sent me to counseling. She did NOT report the abuse to the police (thank God) and she did everything she could to ensure that there would be no more sexual contact between me and this person, which was 100% successful. What she did was, in my mind no doubt whatsoever, the absolute BEST thing she could have done for our family. No other course of action would have rendered better results.

Most sexual abuse victims are abused by family members or someone close to them. If the victims are given a choice as to the method to end the abuse, they would likely choose to handle the abuse within the family, in a positive manner, or with a professional counselor. Perhaps they are traumatized enough by the abuse OR by it being discovered, that they fear that punishing the abuser and sending them to prison would result in even more trauma. They don't want their family ripped apart; or their lives turned upsidedown. All they want is the abuse to stop, to get help, and learn to heal. Counseling for both the abuser and the abused is truthfully all that is really necessary in most cases. I am so grateful that this was the course of action for my own abuse.  Boy, do I consider myself lucky.  If law enforcement considered the feelings of the victim, there wouldn't be so much fear to report the abuse, and let's face it:  Reporting the abuse, even if only to a family member, is the first step in making it stop.

Now, in instances of violence or forced sexual contact, that would surely warrant a more serious approach, and if it would make the life of the abused better, prison would certainly be a viable option. But, often, too many times, victims are not asked for their opinions or questioned in any way. I know of many cases of sex offenders who are now married to their victims, and how those victims declare as loudly as they can that they are NOT a victim, and yet no one listens to them.

Why are we afraid to speak to victims and to listen to them? Here, we have the best resource at our fingertips to determine how best to handle the offender. If a victim is hurt or angry, then that should be factored into the punishment of the offender. If the victim is declaring consensual contact and/or how they love the offender, etc, then why can't that be considered in the case against the offender? Why does every person whoever engaged in consensual contact be punished the same as a violent offender?

Instead of talking to these victims, we tiptoe around them like they are fragile antique china, ready to shatter into a million pieces at the mere mention of their sexual abuse. Why? Because we don't want to victimize victims.

If offenders are made to undergo a lengthy process of assessments, evaluations and questioning, why aren't the victims?  If the case goes to court, victims (unless too young to comprehend) should be asked to testify.  After all, the accused person's life is on the line, and they should be afforded every chance to prove their innocence.  If victims were questioned, perhaps more false allegations would be discovered.  Too many offenders are rotting in prison for something they did not do.  If false accusers realize the seriousness of their allegations, they might think twice before reporting false accusations.

No system would be perfect, I am sure many victims truly are victimized by being questioned, but even Jaycee Lee Dugard healed enough to tell her story.  If she can do it, others can, too.  Telling their story can be a part of the healing process, and every story needs to be considered.

If a victim is truly traumatized by the abuse, then sure, I understand the hesitancy to talk with them about it, but many are not. Many do not consider themselves victims at all. Many, such as myself, want to scream to the world, "I am NOT a victim." Some were, once, but are not NOW. Some never were victims at all. Their voices are silenced as if they are just as fragile as victims who have suffered the worst forms of abuse or violence.

Being a victim does not define who they are or who they will be come. Just because someone was a victim once does not mean that they have to spend the rest of their lives as a victim. I am tired of people telling me that I am a victim and being made to feel like I am still a victim. That is total bullshit. I WAS a victim. I own it. You can't change it. I am NOT a victim now! And because I am NOT a victim now, I will never believe that once someone is a sex offender, they have to BE a sex offender the rest of their life. I believe that they WERE a sex offender. Being a sex offender does not have to define what a person is, who they are, or who they will be in life. The notion that "once a sex offender, always a sex offender" is the biggest load of crap since "once a victim, always a victim".

I wonder about my husband's victim. I don't know much about her, admittedly, and here lately, I've been thinking I would like to talk with her. I want to know how she feels, how she REALLY feels. Does she feel like a victim? In the past, I've always felt like she just wanted to be left alone and I assumed that it was because she was embarrassed about what happened. The stories I've heard by other members of the community that knew her then have not painted her in the best light. I was told she had something of a reputation. I guess I did, too, at that young age, and so I have always identified with her in that way... but, maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe there are other reasons for her wanting to be left alone.

Maybe her story is completely different than my husband's, and if that is the case, then I would be totally open to listening to her. Never before have I been interested in listening to her. But, then, I never felt the need or never felt ready. I feel open to it now, no matter what she would have to say. I want to know if she considered herself a victim and if she still considers herself a victim. I want to tell her it's OK if she does. I want to tell her that I would understand, and I do believe I would understand...  I feel like I want her voice to finally be heard, good or bad.

But, meanwile, just don't label me a victim.

When you label someone a victim, then you are expecting them to feel like a victim. And, if they don't want to feel like a victim, then you are making them feel like something is wrong with them, something like "being attracted to pedophiles" for example. When you label someone a victim, then THAT is the thing that is victimizing them all over again. Every time someone says to me "I am sorry you are a victim", they are victimizing me again. Before they said it, I WAS a victim. After they said it, they make me a victim again. I am sure I am not the only one that feels like I am being victimized by people telling me I am a victim.

I have never felt more victimized in my whole life than I have in these last few years. If you want to think of me as a victim, then consider me a victim of these stupid laws instead. I AM a victim to these laws, in many, many ways. Many of my rights as an American citizen have been violated, not by my husband, but by the American legislation. THAT'S what gets my feathers ruffled; my hackles raised. I have never been convicted of any crime, but I am treated as a criminal.

OK... so go ahead, label me a victim.  I'm still gonna root for the same team.