THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VICTIM AND A SURVIVOR!
“Millions of people, through no fault of their own, have been sexually abused. And, while many ‘victims’ become discouraged and isolated, ‘survivors’ find this to be their greatest strength, and they thrive! I hope this blog empowers someone—everyone—to rethink what they’ve been programmed to believe about sexual abuse. True discipleship is more than being a student or a teacher; it is applying what you have learned in order to help others."
—Founder of the Justus Love Corporation, Stacy Snapp-Killian
There seems to be some confusion when we talk about sexual abuse. People often get the words “victim” and “survivor” mixed up and define people as one or the other. Sexual abuse is a broader a topic than most of us realize. It is known by many names: rape, sexual assault, molestation, sex trafficking, and any other negative sexual insinuation you can conceive of.
So, I’m writing this blog to bring awareness to the behaviors that some (not all) victims and survivors of sexual abuse display. I will also share some important statistics to help us all understand how sexual abuse really affects our world.
A victim is a person who has been hurt or taken advantage of, a person harmed or injured as a result of a crime, or other event or action. There are a couple of kinds of victims: the one who feels accountable for the choices of others and the one who is in denial; and someone who suppresses his or her pain, seeking a fix for a lifelong battle; someone who uses self-medication as a coping mechanism.
All or one of these perspectives might hit home to a “victim,” because staying quiet makes some sense, but also they may not be aware they’re a victim at all. This doesn’t come as a surprise because most “victims” of sexual abuse have difficulties confronting the issue, and all of us—including myself, who was once a “victim”—understand their silence.
Sexual abuse silence is rampant worldwide, and this is partly because the mainstream media decide what is news and what is not. Sometimes negative attention is better than no attention—I get that—but when you’re in the business of gathering facts, covering the full span of a topic is more effective than ignoring unwelcome news and openness. The hype rapists, registered sex offenders, molesters, and pedophiles receive is astronomical, and that’s not entirely a bad thing, as we do need to know about these cases, but reporting the “one-time” offense, or the inappropriate “babysitter’s” visit, or that time a relative sat around and watched porn with their nine-year-old nephew before he was old enough to understand what he was being exposed to deserves just as much attention.
Facts matter! This is why education is needed, and we should all work together to discuss the topic and create more diversity in public awareness, which in the long run determines how well the “victim” survives or thrives after being sexually abused. Sexual abuse misrepresentation is at epidemic proportions because it distorts the magnitude of the problem.
So, let’s start there, because I believe we need to establish what sexual abuse really is.
Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. Rape is a type of sexual abuse involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent. Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will.
Ever since cases of childhood sexual abuse began to appear in large numbers in the late 1970s, interest has grown in establishing the truth of the problem. However, studies related to sexual abuse exist as far back as 1929. (Hamilton, 1929; Landis et al., 1940) Hamilton, for a variety of reasons, including the skepticism and caution surrounding sexual reform, studied the following statistics, which were never given wide public notice. But in the late ’70s these statistics were rediscovered according to sociologist and prolific author David Finkelhor’s book A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse, which states that “one in four girls and one in nine boys” were being sexually abused.
This statistic means that for the majority of adults living today between the ages of 40 and 70, for every four women you associate with, whether at your high school reunion, or at work, one of them has been sexually abused. For every nine men you see, whether at a sports arena, church, or standing in line next to you, one has suffered sexual abuse as a child.
That’s an enormous amount of people and yet today, the CDC reports that approximately one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
Research proves that the damage to victims of childhood sexual trauma is so significant that it disrupts their entire psychology as adults. Yet there are those who hide their emotional scars and put on a brave “mask,” hoping if they don’t acknowledge they were sexually abused they won’t be a “victim.”
But, many of these people do have a feeling of hopelessness as adults and have learned that if they say something often enough they will start to believe it, so “victims” start believing this fairytale designed to keep them safe from their own actuality. The result is extreme feelings of helplessness and isolation, and this furthers the cycle because then they adapt to other symptoms causing them stress and anger, and they blame those on external factors for the breakdown of their life. This is where life struggles and depression and high levels of hopelessness come into play well into their adult years, and the cycle continues.
This is a sure sign of a “victim” mentality, because when they do not accept that they’ve lost control of their life and begin to search for comfort in other things, they adapt to hurting themselves in other ways and disrupt their well-being.
There are many factors to consider when hiding sexual abuse, because this further creates deception, and this is not healthy for our nation.
- · According to the Obesity Action Coalition, today more than 93 million Americans are affected by the disease of obesity. It is generally thought that extreme obesity is rare; however, it affects nine million adults and two million children in the U.S. Most of them have a history of sexual abuse.
- · According to the World Health Organization, approximately 450 million people currently suffer from a neuropsychiatric disorder. One in four families worldwide is likely to have at least one member with a behavioral or mental disorder. Child sexual abuse is associated with 47 percent of all childhood-onset psychiatric disorders and with 26 percent to 32 percent of adult-onset disorders. Sexual abuse does not mean that you will develop a mental illness, but it is one of many risk factors because people who experience sexual abuse have a higher risk of anxiety disorders, depression, suicide attempts, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, and personality disorders.
- · According to the American Journal on Addictions, 75 percent of women who enter treatment programs report having experienced sexual abuse. And, as estimates suggest, those who are in formal drug and alcohol treatment are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, including men. That means that more than one in five individuals who has been diagnosed with depression also has a history of abusing alcohol or drugs. Many drug and alcohol addicts abuse substances to escape from painful or fearful memories of sexual abuse.
These are just a few examples of how self-medicating provides relief for the stresses, concerns, and fears associated with sexual abuse. And, while they may give relief in the short term, they do not address the real problem.
This brings me back to the majority of stories the media report that focus on those facing the court system or who need Child Protective Services to assist on their behalf. But sexual abuse happens to both children and adults, and it does not discriminate against age, demographics, or race. Sexual abuse affects those of the same sex or opposite sex, in marriages and relationships, and even during sleepovers with childhood “friends.”
A survivor is a person who remains alive after an event in which others have died, literally or metaphorically. There are two types of survivors: one who remains a part of a group of people for support and encouragement, and another who copes well with difficulties in his or her life and inspires others to do the same.
My interest in “survivors” began in 1996, two years after being raped. I could no longer function effectively. I was consumed with fear. So, I did what I thought would protect me and began vacuuming the carpets in my house every night before bed. I prepared myself every day for my perpetrator’s return, hoping I was smarter than he was and would somehow see his footprints in the carpet before he could find a way to hurt me again. I positioned my bed facing the entrance to my bedroom, so I constantly woke up during the night and slept with one eye open, which lead to stress and affected my body in ways I couldn’t even imagine. This brought on the beginning stages of obesity and drug use, and the sexual abuse consumed my thoughts. Those thoughts were of shame, guilt, and fear, and trust me—feeling that way about your own self makes you want to die! Metaphorically speaking, slowly but surely I was killing myself one way or the other, and I needed help. I was eventually diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, and during my first counseling visit I was given a questionnaire to fill out and discovered I was a “victim” of childhood sexual abuse and had been hiding a lot more than I was willing to admit.
I had to learn when you are hit with these kinds of problems, your perception of yourself and the world in which you live is based on little or no conscious awareness of your own truth, so the intention to hurt yourself becomes this “go-to” pattern of deception made up of your own thoughts. Who wants to look broken? Or damaged? Or depressed? No one! So, changing the way you think of yourself is crucial if you’re going to become a “survivor.”
Your expressions and behaviors are literally self-fulfilling prophesies of your mind-set. Thus, when you are not encountering your full potential or embracing all your own experiences, you are reinforcing your existing beliefs and failing to inform yourself of new possibilities.
I discovered, through the hundreds of stories people have shared with me concerning sexual abuse that some of life’s greatest “survivors” grew up in the worst situations with horrible conditions, but the majority came from ideal homes and were raised in a place of worship. Almost every person I have ever interviewed had several things in common, including: the same nightmare over and over, a need for acceptance, the desire to help other people, and faith.
They are successful men and women who have overcome and accomplished things in their lives because of perseverance, determination, and forgiveness, and their main focus in life now is to create a new order through the businesses, nonprofits, ministries, and teachings they have established from their own painful past.
Ernest Hemingway said it best: “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.”
“Survivors” of sexual abuse feel it’s important to speak out and stay more connected to those in their community because this gives them power, and most often, it’s what they are fighting for.
One of the major factors in their success is credited to camaraderie. They associate with those like them, who are better than they are or whom they want to emulate. They connect to their intelligence, beliefs, and spirit in such a way that they do not have to remain silent.
So, how do “survivors” of sexual abuse help “victims?” True leadership is a buildup of comradeship through connecting people with similar experiences. Again and again I find stories of people who say, “My sexual abuse was the most valuable part of my past. It doesn’t define who I am, but I use it to help other people.” This is why I designed www.justuslove.org hoping the “infotainment” it provides resonates with something inside those who feel they are still “victims.”
Which brings me back to that twenty-two year old girl, who was raped, I described to you earlier. I went on to accept I was a “victim” and put in the hard-work and perseverance it takes to become a true “survivor.” It wasn't easy and often I felt alone, but now, as fate would have it; twenty-two years later I created The Justus Love Corporation. I took the pain from my past and built the first and only multi-media company in the world for “survivors,” giving them a platform in which they can be the leaders they were born to be.
JustUS® is made up of successful businessmen and women who encourage “victims” to take back power over their life and become the “thrivers” God intended them to be.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Also known as “celebrity hairstylist StacyK,” the 26-year veteran in the beauty business has authored two books: “Be Beautiful Being You”and “The Ten Character Commitments.” She is a part of the Women’s Leadership Movement, Toyota's “Women That Soar” Community Outreach recipient, and one of the 100 World Changers recently selected for her intent on moving the world forward with her new branding concept created for sexual abuse survivors. Stacy is the founder of The Justus Love Corporation. It is an American multimedia company helping those on a mission to stop sexual abuse by sharing their story, and exposing sexual abuse suppression. The corporation unites “informative, inspirational individuals” with lifestyle and leadership goals. Its philosophy remains: “Our Words Give Life!”