If you offer up your testimony in the hopes of making the world a better place, or just because you need to be heard, and someone tells you to “stop playing the victim”, all you need to do is stand tall, take a deep breath, and let loose some serious belly laughter.
Victims haven’t yet escaped their abusers, who still have a men
tal, emotional, and/or physical hold on them. Victims are paralyzed in a situation with no way out. Victims can be controlled. Victimhood is a temporary state, meant to ensure survival. There is nothing shameful about it: the fault and flaw lies with the perpetrator, and no one else.
This doesn’t mean victims are weak: it means that crimes are being or have been perpetrated against them. With time, experience, introspection, and support, healing will take place. After healing takes place, the courage to share and advocate is easier to access. You move from victim to survivor, and you feel righteous anger for what was done to you. You have rejected the shame and guilt and judgement heaped upon you. You are no longer Ophelia struggling against the heavy weights of her petticoats: instead you are a Naiad, full of wisdom and healing.
No, the truth is simple. If you are speaking out against an injustice that has been committed against yourself or others, you’re not a victim in the slightest. You are no longer gullible to their blame and shame tactics. You have found your self-worth and aren’t afraid to show it. You have cobbled together the pieces that were broken, and put them back together with double reinforcement. Just because you’ve been damaged doesn’t mean you can’t be strong.
And that is why they hate you: because you can no longer be controlled or intimidated. Because you know your value as a human being. Because the world they’ve been promised is falling apart and they are terrified.
There is no question that the planet, as well as our society, is changing. Political parties are experiencing death rattles. Movements for progressive equality are spreading. More efficient processes and new knowledge are discovered everyday. And it is becoming more difficult to deny our collective humanity, when we can interact with people just like us from other cultures any time of day.
We are a species on the brink of self-annihilation. Our only hope for long-term survival is to make sure that everyone is taken care of, and everyone is respected. Some people don’t want to share that respect. These people don’t see their brothers, and sisters, as equals. These people think that it’s their right to poison water or put people in debtor’s prison or shoot unarmed black men and not be charged with murder.
Those people don’t like it when we raise our voices, or gather in large crowds, or exercise our right to vote, or when we organize to demand better treatment. So they try to prey on our trauma.
“Stop playing the victim,” they sneer.
“Your entire life is your own fault,” they say.
“You shouldn’t have been poor/colored/ a woman/gay/an addict/so irresponsible” they whisper, even they they have no idea what your life is actually like.
They say these things to plant seeds of doubt in you. They want you to feel shame and complicity in your own abuse. They are trying to trigger a flashback that will shut you up.
You don’t need to be afraid of them- whoever “they” may be: your parents, church, society, men, the rich, or politicians- because the truth is that they’re already afraid of you. They work diligently to silence us and yet we press back- people are taking to the streets, shifting their politics, and organizing all over the world. The ember of rebellion has become a flame, and it cannot be contained so easily.
They try to tell you that you can’t use your voice because you are weak: I’m here to tell you that you must use your voice, because you are strong. Don’t stop telling your story, no matter how jaded and cynical you become. Keep talking no matter how much shame they try to heap upon you. Speak to everyone who will listen, and repay them by listening in return.
But do not let your fire die. Do not let your hunger for justice be sustained with crumbs from the master’s table. Do not gently collapse in resignation, accepting your fate and succumbing to its dreary clutches. We are all in this together, and we can change it if we all work together, too. The best way we can start is to finally hear one another.