I am not crazy about the word victim. The social worker who facilitates our DV (domestic violence) support group is not fond of it. Most of the women who attend this group are not fans of being referred to as victims. Some do not mind. A few do not give a fig one way or the other. Unfortunately, it clearly defines what most of us have experienced, it is a kind of shortcut word to express a particular circumstance, and it gets used and everyone just gets over it, and sometimes themselves.
However, there remains a belief in how one becomes a victim and how one might deserve whatever happens to one. And, today's topic was about how when something terrible happens to someone, that that person often is on the receiving end of criticism, blaming, shame and responsibility for what happened. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.
I am not talking about things like leaving your purse open and unattended at the market.
Or walking away with your car doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition.
Or paying the utility bill late and incurring a late fee.
Or forgetting your sister's birthday, your wedding anniversary and Christmas, all in the same year.
I am really not talking about lots of stupid things we do that have unpleasant side effects and painful and embarrassing results.
As one might imagine, there was plenty of sharing and reflection and reflecting back to one another. Much of it was about the things that happened in our marriages and other relationships and how it might come to be that another person, a friend or family member, would respond in a less than supportive way and cast blame...at least a shadow of blame...on the person who was hurt, abused and terrorized by, well, by a man in our lives, because that is the background that all of us have in this group.
Then, one of the women began to talk about what happened in her life after she was raped.
And, we all listened because rape has happened to us in those relationships where we should have been able to expect to be safe. And, loved. And, free from stress and fear and all the rest. So, we listened and thought about our own lives, our own rape experiences.
It was really powerful. Rape is something that we have never specifically addressed. It gets mentioned once in a while, but always within the context of something else. Not that we ignore it or categorize it out of the dialogue, or anything like that. For some reason it simply has never been the focus of a session. Today, it dominated.
The woman, a new member, her first session, was the person who introduced her rape into the conversation as it relates to trust, a huge issue with which we all struggle. Since we were talking about how other people might react to someone else and their bad crap, she shared that one of the criticisms was that she wore her jeans too tight and that doing that had been a provocative thing to do around the uncle who raped her when she was 12 years old, and that she had been beaten for sharing the rape with her parents. Yeah. Twelve years old. Beloved uncle, brother of her mother. Parents who blamed and punished her for what happened.
As we were there, supporting her with our attention, one of the other women spoke and said that women who dress in a sexy or behave in certain ways deserve whatever happens to them.
The woman who shared had a look on her face that I imagine must have been there all those years ago when she was raped and her family effectively abandoned her in favor of her rapist. Everyone was kind of shocked and without really thinking about it or the possible consequences, I said that even if a woman goes out naked, she is in no way responsible if someone decides to take advantage of her. The other woman replied that, oh, sure, I suppose, maybe she is not responsible, but she really should expect to get what she deserves. We all know that rape is not about sex or sexuality or behavior or location or time or anything besides power. Rapists use a woman's appearance or behavior as an excuse, but the truth is that it is about exercising power over someone less physically or emotionally powerful than himself.
It was stunning. Here we are, discussing how victims are often taken to task and held responsible for what happens to them, and one of those very same victims uses it as an opportunity to minimize another group member.
There is much more that I am too upset to share right now. This week has been chock full of all kinds of crap littered around a couple of truly wonderful things and with how I have been thinking about and stressing over my lack of progress and recovery. It really is difficult to see sometimes, from the inside. I am rejecting the crappy stuff and focusing on the great things that happened.
I stood up and defended a person I do not even know, whose experiences were dismissed by another person, one who has become a good friend of mine. I was clear. I was calm and assertive, which I always think of how one needs to be when training and working with animals, and which also seems frivolous and maybe even disrespectful, but it is not. Being centered...oh, sad psychobabble, how we use you...the whole calm thing and the whole staying clear and assertive without billowing over into forcefulness or judgement or additional criticism or even aggressive behavior is pretty much the kind of behavior I strive to have.
I did much the same thing yesterday at work regarding a very difficult client that everyone would like me to fire, as in not allow her to return. I am giving her two more chances. Because I can, and because I do not want to carry any regret for not giving her more opportunity to behave properly.
A major agency in the city has requested that I allow one of their employees to shadow me in my work and mentor her. I said that I would, but I have not met her or discussed what her needs might be, so we will just try it and see what happens. I am a bit conflicted, as the employee is thinking about getting certification for a specific job in the agency. Certification that I already have, and they are choosing to have me train her instead of actually hiring me. Like I said, I will have to see how that all works out. Man.
I had a three-way conversation this afternoon between me, my banker (how cool that I have an actual banker, who is a friend and, well, just plain cool) and the investment company that is supposed to be handling the puny share I finally received from the divorce. Maybe. I am trying to stay calm about all of this, but they have delayed the process for nearly a year and a half, and whilst I am not willing to be assertive, W/banker/friend is arranging for an appointment with her financial guy so that I can explore my options for investing this money so that I can close those accounts with that investiment compay, accounts that being obfuscated and delayed by said investment company, folk who are friends of my ex. Interesting how complicated and eventually circular life is.
Anyway, it appears that they are beginning to disperse some kind of annuity, a monthly thing, and that I will have a little more money each month.
Given this great week and the cool stuff, I decided to live in abundance today.
The director of the clinic where I receive my own therapy asked me to work with another of the clinic's clients. I asked for an introduction and he may need some time to feel comfortable working with me, time to develop a trusting relationship. How freaking cool is that?
I made some changes in my meds that may serve me better.
I bought a case of peanut butter so that one of the supportive church programs can distribute them to the people who come to their daily meal program that they run for homeless, shelter residents and other people who struggle to keep food in their homes.
I bought a case for my phone, which still works fine, but is kind of falling apart. Now I can keep it a very long time. Yay.
In a few minutes I will be making a couple of bracelets for myself. Not other people. Myself. If anyone admires them, I will not be giving them away; I will be keeping them. Probably. Hope so.
I took some money out of savings and stopped by my dental clinic to make an advance payment towards the insane amount of work I need. When I have saved and deposited enough money with them, I will have much nicer and healthier teeth. Oh, just yay.
I am going to do the same thing in regards to a new pair of glasses. I am pretty sure I am going to do that. Pretty sure.
I am feeling well enough...finally...to try to drive north this weekend to spend time with my daughter and all her boys. The biggest boy is traveling next week, out of the country again, so they may want a nice quiet weekend together, which they never really have when I am there. I sometimes feel sorry for her, as when I am there it is like she has an additional child. Well.
I finished Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement yesterday. It was great. I love her writing, not only because her characters are so compelling and relatable, but the foundation and expression of mysticism, or maybe the development and understanding and translation of illusion, is just breathtaking. I can become part of her characters' lives more easily than any other author I know.
Well, off to make bracelets to wear to work tomorrow. Off to read my new book from the library. Off to dream. Off to celebrate the end of a very interesting and ultimately satisfying day, with the hopes of more to come.
I never dreamed, not ever, ever, ever, of having the life I now am living. Blessing shower down on me all the damn time, and it pleases me that I can often recognize those blessing when they come in the form of discomfort, distress, hard work or struggle. I realized something a while ago, but have not shared it because it makes me feel so vulnerable. It is that I no longer am fearful of being hurt by him again, that my life is almost certainly safe now. I am not letting down my guard and I am not becoming careless, it is just that I do not have that particular fear as a motivator or director of how I move through my days. It feels nice.