There and Back Again: A Personal Journey to Find the Importance of Breaking the Cycle of Victimization
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 of incest, to a harlot in the eyes of one of the few people whose opinion still meant 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 did insinuate 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 victim again.

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 I have strongly disliked most of my life. I became the type of person who either consciously or sub-consciously asks, "What's in it for me?"

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 of sexual harassment. I am a survivor of racial discrimination.

Simply put: I refuse to be a victim any longer.

I am a survivor.

Janet Baness is a pen name for a 32-year-old mother of three. Under other pseudonyms, she pens a broad spectrum of work, from poetry to articles for a mental health newsletter. As a child, she endured sexual abuse. She didn't believe that it is good to hold anger towards the man involved as it would ultimately create animosity towards herself, so she forgave him -- but she will not forget.





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