There and Back Again:
A Personal Journey to Find the Importance of Breaking the Cycle
By Janet Barness
Having never dealt emotionally with the
abuses I endured as a child, I have traveled a road that
feels more like a carousel
than a path through life. As a child, I only heard the term "substance
abuse." Originally, it was only the illicit drugs to which
they referred. As a teen, substance abuse began to encompass
alcohol as well. Still, abuse remained self-inflicted and,
therefore, there were no obvious victims.
It was not until I was a young adult
that "abuse" became
synonymous with "victimization."
I had not seen myself as a victim of rape and incest. I inherently
knew what had happened to me repeatedly was not my fault. True,
my trust had been betrayed, but that did not make me a victim.
True, I had been violated in an unspeakable manner, but that
did not make me a victim' either. I did not become a victim
until my brother broached the issue from his perspective. For
years he had known what was happening; he had even asked that
it stop. When it didn't, he branded me a seductress. He began
to blame me for the unwanted attention I received.
After a late-night conversation with
him, I not only carried the weight of
my own issues, I also had the extra burden of my brother's
opinion. In that
conversation, I went from a young girl living through the reality
to a harlot in the eyes of one of the few people whose opinion
something to me, and on to a victim. Not by my choice.
I don't like the label of "victim." To
me, it has always had the same
negative connotation as "suffer." Yes, I endured
repeated incidents of rape and incest. That makes me a survivor.
After I became pregnant with my first
child, I was passed over for a
promotion. Though the manager did not directly state it, he
that my pregnancy was a contributing factor to the decision
to pass me over for a less-qualified teenager. I again felt
victimized, because the company I worked for had just under
the required number of employees for me to have legal recourse.
There was nothing I could do.
Similar events happened at other jobs.
Until recently, I did not make the
connection. A victim becomes victimized' and, therefore, becomes
A recent episode with a dear friend brought
about some much-needed introspection and reflection. What
that revealed unsettled
me. I had gone from "incest survivor" to "victim
of incest" back to "survivor of incest" then
to "victim of discrimination." I had been discriminated
against because I was a mother-to-be. I bore that badge as
though it were one of honor. In reality. it was not a badge
of honor but a shield of cowardice. I used it as an excuse
for why things were wrong in my life. I used it to fuel the
fears that everyone was picking on me.
At my last job, just over a year ago,
I was the brunt of a painfully
juvenile joke at the hands of an African-American male. When
I spoke with
the manager on duty about it, he brought race in as the explanation.
Again, I was victimized. I was the victim of unwanted actions
from members of the opposite sex. I was the victim of repeated
harassment due to the color of my skin (imagine a Caucasian
female being able to claim she was singled out due to her race).
I was the only non-African-American on duty that night.
I again saw myself as a victim. As the
victim' the perpetrator did his best
to make me the guilty party in the situation. That added to
the stress of
the situation. When my health became jeopardized, I saw no
option but to
leave the company. It was at that point I saw myself as being
penalized for being the victim -- further victimization.
Instead of seeking help, I became the type of personality that
strongly disliked most of my life. I became the type of person
consciously or sub-consciously asks, "What's in it for
The last few days, I have worked diligently
to find out what it is about a
year ago that has me still upset. Up until a few days ago,
I would have told you that I was the victim of sexual harassment,
the victim of reverse
discrimination and, for a reason unbeknownst to me, everyone
wanted a piece of me. It is that mentality that has set me
up for other falls that I don't want to take.
And so today I say: I am an incest survivor.
I am a survivor of
discrimination against an expectant mother. I am a survivor
harassment. I am a survivor of racial discrimination.
Simply put: I refuse to be a victim any longer.
I am a survivor.