Saturday, April 6, 2013

"But You Don't Look Like You've Been Abused!"

One time I was part of a debate about what was really happening in the poem "My Papa's Waltz". Someone suggested that the piece was a child recalling being abused by his father, to which I heartily disagreed because I'm a human being and my opinion is different from other people's. Now my counter argument was that the narrator looked back on the experience too fondly to be telling a story of abuse.

Instead of maturely debating this point with me, my opponent moved to the edge of her chair, stared down her birdlike nose at me and very rudely replied "How would you know? You've never been abused."

Statements such as those are dangerous for a couple reasons, the first being that when you spew an absolute like that out of your mouth, then you set yourself up to look like a complete ass. Second, in the event that you are wrong, you've just offended someone a large scale. So the first lesson here is unless you know without a doubt that your statement is true, try not to speak in absolutes.

Now, being that I am a survivor of child abuse, I happened to get very offended. When asked how she could possibly come to such a conclusion, the dreadful woman replied with "because you don't look like one".


It's been almost two years since this incident and I'm still irritated by it. So, second lesson, don't judge people based on their outwardly appearance, it creates the illusion that you are an ass. And yes, I think very little of the woman who threw that statement out there, because she discredited my opinion based on the fact that she didn't think I looked like someone who had knowledge about the situation, when I had nearly 13 years of experience with child abuse.

So here's what I've learned about abuse survivors. Those who can't escape from the situation in their minds, even if they are no longer being abused (dwelling on it), and those who move on, allowing their experiences to make them stronger, not cut them down. No, abuse victims are not recognizable first off. You can't give someone a once over and just know that they've been abused in some way, because abuse victims are used to hiding their plight. I know I was. Furthermore, what is the identifier for someone who has been abused?

I know child abuse is easier to spot, with the bruises and malnutrition and such, but once those go away how do people know? Like I said, they don't, and it is extremely ignorant of anyone who thinks that they can just look at someone and determine that they have been abused, especially since there are things like verbal and emotional abuse and also make-up.

But on the other hand, I want to thank that random lady. Because she let me know, in her own way, that I have successfully moved on with my life. Life isn't about where you come from, it's where you go from there and she let me know that I've built myself a life away from my childhood.

Now I'm a firm believer in facing your past, but I also believe that the past should not completely define us. We, as people have the ability to grow, to get stronger, more durable, mature, educate ourselves etc. So when faced with a tragic back story, brush yourself off, and own it. Realize that it happened, and you can't change that, but how you grow from there is in your hands. Your abusers do not have the right or ability to shape your future and you can do anything you want.

You survived, I survived, and we're the better for it. And if no one can see any outward semblance of abuse, good. They don't need to, and you have no obligation to declare your journey to the world until you are ready. And once you're ready, tell who you want. Because being abused is nothing to be ashamed of. Surviving is something to have pride in. Surviving abuse makes you strong, capable, and everything your abusers said you weren't. And through everything, you are loved.

Even if it doesn't look like it.

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse remember that even in the darkest of times, there is always light. You will make it out. There is hope, and most importantly, there is help. 

Stay Strong.


Anonymous said...

This was a great blog!! I loved it! And I just wanted to let you know that you're a wonderful person and keep up your great work! I'm sorry for what happened to you in your childhood. You're a strong and encouraging young lady! Keep up the good work!

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