In the aftermath of trauma, it’s easy to fall into denial. One woman found that in order to regain control of her life, she had to first let go and admit that she was a victim.
ISSUE: Summer 2012
DEPT: My Story
STORY: Anastasia Kim
Victim. It’s a word everyone is familiar with, but only a few know its reality. It’s a person who is often talked about, but rarely understood. It’s a label no one likes to claim, as it symbolizes defeat.
I was technically a victim for 19 years before I even realized I was one. Although a close relative touched me inappropriately at an age when innocence begets vulnerability, writing in my diary helped to mask this pain. Victim? That word didn’t represent my reality. Although my birth mother abandoned me at a critical point in my adolescence, the love my father, stepmother and grandparents bestowed upon me filled the void she had left behind. Victim? That person wasn’t me. Although my first love cheated on me with a close friend, the support of true friends got me through my first heartbreak. Victim? It wasn’t a label that fit me.
Through bad — and worse — I gritted my teeth and convinced myself that I was not a victim. And so I tethered my past inside a glass house; these feelings would never exist beyond the limits I put on them. However, I would remind myself of their existence to live a life built on strength and resilience.
Then one day, a man happened into my life and shattered this glass house.
I met S through a good friend of mine, J, who told me she had the perfect guy for me. He was the eldest son of a respected pastor, and he was a college student at a reputable university. Excited at the prospect of meeting Mr. Right-for-me, I got in contact with him through email. Watch a movie and grab a late dinner this weekend? Seemed innocuous to me.
Considering he was a “pastor’s kid,” I dressed conservatively so as not to give him the wrong idea. Five minutes before our meet-up time, he showed up donning his university sweater, jeans and a big, bright smile. Even from yards away, I could tell he was a nice guy, and it didn’t hurt that he was a looker.
After the movie ended, we spent a good amount of time getting to know each other at a nearby restaurant. He told me he was sick of the dating scene and he wanted to settle down with someone nice, hopefully a God-fearing woman. By the end of our dinner, although I didn’t want to show it, he had me hook, line and sinker.
He drove me back to my apartment after our date. As he was about to drop me off, he asked me if he could use the restroom. I told him it was fine. But when I walked into my bedroom to put my things down, within seconds, S rushed in and pushed me onto the bed. Then he raped me.
Trying to fight him off was like fronting a tornado — I refused to surrender to him, but no matter what I said, no matter how much I resisted, he didn’t stop. And with each assault, he whittled away at my glass house until nothing but splinters remained.
When he was done, he got up from the bed and spat, “You shouldn’t let guys into your apartment so late at night.” His words stunned me; I had been completely fooled. I lay still in my bed until I heard the click of my front door. I didn’t sleep at all that night.
The next day, I gathered enough courage to tell J what had happened. She balked, saying, “A great guy like S could never do such a thing.” After she hung up on me, I considered calling the police. But if a friend who knew me inside and out didn’t even believe me, who would? I wasn’t ready to have that question answered.
A few months later, I ran into S at a house party. He pretended he didn’t know me. Maybe it was because J was also at the party. Or maybe, just maybe, he actually felt some shame, I thought.
Regardless, I quickly made my way to the guestroom to grab my things and go. Just as I was about to leave, S appeared and pulled me in for a hug. Before I could push him off, he put his hand up my shirt. Then, J walked into the room and saw me struggling. At that moment, a bottleneck of emotions exploded. Seeing J standing there so priggish and narrow-minded, having S treat me this way for a second time — I had had enough. I looked S straight in the eye and told him that if he ever imposed himself on me or any other woman ever again, I would report him to the police and hang his shameless rear to dry. I walked over to J, who stood absolutely dumbfounded, and told her the next time she wants to set a friend up with a rapist, she should at least know who she is vouching for.
I cried all the way home, but not because I felt defeated. It was because I had finally realized the truth. Victim? That was me. And in acknowledging this, I regained control of the reins.
Victims never want to admit they are victims. It’s so easy to put our guard up, to hide behind glass houses that delay our healing process. But life is too short for denials and it’s much too precious to spend time blaming others or even ourselves for the course it has taken. Victims should never feel defeated because every day brings new battles to be won. So long as we continue fighting with an optimistic outlook, we are no longer victims, but victors.