“Good” Victim, “Good” Self-Care

I would like to welcome the newest member of our writing team, Nikki. In her first post with us, she talks about the expectations placed on abuse victims/survivors. Thanks for sharing with us, Nikki!

There was a thing going around Tumblr that I can’t find now because I still don’t totally understand Tumblr, and it was about being a “good abuse victim.” How a “good victim” never gets involved with abusers again. “Good victims” have scars to prove their abuse, they get everything documented, they go right into therapy. They get fixed, they don’t get abused again. “Good victims” publicly call out their abusers… or wait, is it that “good victims” just talk about it with people close to them and work it out themselves and never make a scene? I don’t know, I never did it “right.” I marched around calling myself a Survivor for years which, to me, was like a “better victim,” a stronger one. Cuz when you’re a victim you’re weak and when you’re a survivor you’re strong and you did “good victim” properly and graduated. I said FUCK YOU to victimhood like it was bad. But in retrospect that’s saying there’s a right and wrong way to handle abuse, and that’s bullshit. As a repeat VICTIM of abuse I wanted to look strong even though repeat abuse makes people look weak. But fuck these hierarchies of who handles abuse the best. I am a victim of abuse and I’m surviving.

I have a gift that I sometimes wish I didn’t have – within minutes of interacting with an abuser, I know. It’s because I was raised by a bunch of them, and because I was raised by them I dated them over and over again, they’ve been the loves of my life and my best friends and they’ve been my bosses and teachers and they’ve been the cops that threw me in the backs of police cars and they’ve been the people who handled my medical care. Now is an excellent example when talking about my mental health can work against me, cuz now is when all of this can be blamed on me being crazy. You wanna tell me that’s what I attract or do you wanna acknowledge that abusers prey on the abused? Do I wind up in abusive situations because I am crazy, or am I crazy because I wind up in abusive situations?

Sometimes abusers are right there, right the fuck there in front of you. And I’m gonna tell you who they are, and you might not believe me until you see what happens. What’s different now is that I’ve been smashed so far into the dirt that I no longer give a F U C K and I’ll call it like I see it, like it is, and to say I’ve never been wrong is an understatement. I realize it sounds like I’m talking out of my ass, and it’s partially true – I don’t always call it like I see it; I still give a F U C K. I am still afraid of abusers, and I am still afraid of the fallout of going public.

They bank on people like me. They bank on me staying quiet. 

Abusers smell your fear; they smell your vulnerability. They feed off of it. They will charm the pants off of anyone who you could possibly expose them to, especially if you are out as a crazy person, and especially if you are a repeat abuse victim. They will flash that million dollar sociopath smile & turn it around on you, as they’ve collected an arsenal of “evidence” of how their actions are justified. You might spend the rest of your life undoing the emotional damage left by an abuser who made you feel like you deserved it because of this or that, just so they could save face.

Smashed so fucking far into the dirt. Bad victim.

This makes me think of the idea of carrying out “good self-care” practices as a response to abuse, as part of the responsibility of the “good victim.” “Good victims” should practice “good self-care,” stuff like, “painting your nails, fucking, petting a kitten, writing a letter.” Those lists of “good self-care” ideas sometimes make me feel fucking terrible because a lot of times I just can’t do those things, despite how much I need and rely on self-care; my self-care is often picking up the pieces of everything I neglected while dealing with the aftermath of abuse. Re-organizing my room after an extended depression hideout, that feels so fucking good. Responding to trigger-time at my own pace. Taking pills that knock me out. Frantically clean up messes alone, hands and knees, scrubbing with harsh chemicals, burning my hands, scrubbing like my dad or my ex is standing over me, but knowing they aren’t, knowing it’s for me, loving that smell as it seeps into my nostrils and burns my lungs. Being negligent with my physical safety, sometimes on purpose. “Bad self-care” could be drugs and starvation and smoking cigarettes to calm down. Sometimes my version of self-care is straight up UGLY. But often my self-care IS painting my nails or fucking or petting kittens or writing letters or taking baths or running away or just remembering how to breathe. I need self-care, it’s important to me, but I have a hard time with the idea of “good” self-care being the responsibility of the “good victim.” The only thing an abuse victim (or survivor, if you want to differentiate) owes anyone in relation to the abuse they’ve suffered is to do the work it takes to not abuse others – to break the cycle.

Originally published at my personal blog, which has no real name. Republished with permission.

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