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Author Topic: Feeling othered
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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My turn to rant a little today.

Fellow abuse/rape survivors, how tired do you get of hearing people who have not been abused or raped talking about those who have as object lessons?

To be clear, people will sometimes say things like "<insert thing/issue here> is much more common for abuse survivors," in a way where they're clearly trying to message those who do or may abuse, without realizing they are also being heard or read by those who HAVE been.

For sure, there are some things more common or likely for those of us who are survivors. (And also many things that really aren't, but which people tend to stereotype us with.) However, in talking about those things, often what gets left out, or messaged very poorly, is that those of us who have survived are the way we are, and what happened to us was, to at least some degree (otherwise it would not be abuse) outside of our control. However those life experiences, like any others, may have (when they have) changed us, is part of who we are, and the way some folks talk about it presents survivors as defective, rather than as people who may have certain feelings or qualities via abuse or assault.

I have a hard time finding language for this, so forgive me if I'm being unclear. I just hit up on this all the time, especially in reading or doing research, and in the work where I talk with people, or have them talk to me, about sexuality.

Does anyone know what I mean? Or heck, have a better way of expressing it?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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orca
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I'm not quite sure what you mean here. I think I understand, about how survivors are portrayed as defective or having "issues." Example: a sexual partner recently asked me if I'd been raped because I talked about working with the local rape crisis center, and I was too scared to say yes because I thought he would treat me as fragile, the way people often treat survivors and the way I've often been treated, I also felt I didn't know him well enough to talk about that at that moment. I can also go into stories about how differently people seem to treat me when I do say I've been raped, like they thought I was "normal" before and now suddenly seem so different, so...fragile. I've also noticed a few people (usually males, but occasionally women) will dismiss my ideas after they know or suspect, and they will act like I am reacting "emotionally" to a situation/story, even though I'm just using bloody logic and literary criticism. (But I also have to wonder how much of it is because I'm female and how much is because I'm a survivor.)

But I'm confused about the example you give because in my work I will often tell a survivor that it's common to feel a certain way after an assault. Example: survivor tells me they don't think they can trust strangers again, so I tell them that it's common to feel that way after an assault or that as a survivor it is common to feel that way. But I guess that's not what you mean? When I say that, I'm obviously not trying to paint survivors a certain way or as having "issues," just normalize the survivor's emotions at that moment. Does this make sense? I'm having some cerebral flatulence today.

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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LOL.

I think the difference between what I'm reacting to, and what you're talking about doing in your second paragraph, is that you are responding to what survivors state as their own experience, rather than talking about survivors (often without having had any such conversations) in the abstract. Or, more to the point, talking about something ELSE in general, and casually attributing negatives or difficulties very automatically -- including without supporting evidence -- to those who have been abused or assaulted.

We're easy scapegoats for people sometimes, I think, if you get what I mean, and easily presented as statistics, rather than as people, particularly as people who are formed by far more influences in life than only our abuse. (Kind of like in your first paragraph.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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September
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I don't know if this is closer to what you were talking about, but one of the things that have always bothered me is the way that people seem to connect sexual abuse and homosexuality. That is, the idea that female abuse survivors will eschew men and turn to women, or that male abuse survivors will somehow be 'initiated' into homosexuality (which even in itself is incredibly paradoxical).

The first time I came across this was when I was about 17 and linked to an article by Orson Scott Card. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it made me feel even more defective than I had before, and I spent a lot of time wondering to what extent my sexuality is linked to my having been abused. It also really set me back a little, because I'd felt that, by discovering my sexuality, I was starting to own it again. And wondering whether it was actually an effect of the abuse was like losing control over it all over again.


Outside of that, I hate it with a passion when people feel like my feminism is a direct result of my experience with abuse. Like, feminism is women projecting their dislike for one man onto the entire male population.

[ 03-09-2010, 04:03 AM: Message edited by: September ]

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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nixieGurl
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I think I get it, Heather. I hear it all the time, and sadly a lot at school. It's even little thing's like a conversation with friend's the other day about how they don't really enjoy being single at all, and I said I do, and they decided that well of course I must because I am a survivor, as though I am somehow damaged, as though it could not just be my own opinion. And they were not doing it to be mean, it's just the way they often look at me, and who I am, as though I do not have opinions or thoughts that are completly seperate from what happened.

Really Tiring.

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