In some ways, I believe that being a victim of something, has been romanticised. We glorify experiences that people have had. We make victims into warriors, not because we mean harm, but because we don't know what else to do. We don't know how else to react to the pain and the suffering that someone has been through, in an experience that is so completely different from our own experiences. So instead we admire them, but we don't understand them.
I would like to share what it means to be a victim, and then give some advice about how to deal with being a victim, with the hope that this post will not only give you some understanding, but it will give you the tools to deal with your friends or family members that may be dealing with the fallout of certain issues that make them a victim.
What does it mean to be a victim?
Whilst most people think that being a victim means having survived a horrific event, I would like to explain what being a victim really means.
Being a victim means being afraid. It means being afraid of the person or people who inflicted such pain on you. Afraid of yourself and the person you might become. Being a victim means sleepless nights, bouts of depression and anxiety for things that seem unrelated but none the less haunt you for years.
Being a victim means suffering with PTSD, possible eating disorders and mood swings. It means living your life with the knowledge that other people that are in your age group have no idea of what you've been through, and will never be able to understand you. It means being confused about who you are, and doubting yourself. Being a victim means being so lonely that you are forced to turn to someone, but when you do, the empty feeling that you experience when they just don't understand makes you wish you'd just have kept quiet.
Being a victim means that you are strong and brave, but more fragile than you realise. It means spending the rest of your life forcing yourself to move on, and make something of yourself, even though what you really want to do is disappear. It means good days that leave you on a high, but bad days that leave you in the lurch, possibly for days after.
But most of all, being a victim means that on some days, the rain falls so hard and fast it feels as if the bad feelings are never going to go away. You feel disgusted by yourself and constantly put yourself down. However, on the sunny days, you look at all the things you have accomplished even after all you have survived, and you know that your victories outweigh all the bad things that you have suffered, a million times over. Because when you see all your victories, you know that you are nothing like your worst fears, but instead you are the person you have always wanted to become.
A few helpful tips for helping a victim:
1) Listen!! Listen to your friend/ family member. Let them speak. Don't force what they have to say, but instead just let them say what they need to say. Most likely they will feed you bits of information here and there instead of just telling you everything straight. But if they do tell you something, know that it is because they trust you, and for them, trust is not something that comes easy, so keep reassuring them that you will not disclose this information to anyone.
2) Overreacting/ Minimising. Whilst there is literally nothing worse than you pouring your heart out to someone, and them just reducing it down to something that a child wouldn't be bothered by, at the same time, crying over what you have been told is not helpful either. It makes the victim feel even worse than they already do, and will just make them shut off. You might not realise that you are minimising the pain or experience, but trying to change the subject, laughing, making light of the situation or just trying to avoid talking about it, makes the person feel worse. The victim doesn't want you to find you an answer, nor are they expecting you to take the pain away, they just want to talk, and making them feel like a burden or like they're making a huge deal of nothing is likely to enhance any private and personal feelings they have about themselves.
3) Comparing. If your friend or relative is telling you about the time she nearly killed herself in an overdose, DO NOT compare it to the time you wanted to buy a new pair of shoes so you went to the shop but they didn't have your size, so you were so depressed you nearly killed yourself. It is not helpful, it is not useful, just don't do it!
Hope this was useful insight,
LF, LR and MG