I’m not a rape victim; I’m a survivor

When it comes to rape and sexual assault, the world is no stranger to victim-blaming and victimising.

But when the court cases are over and society has forgotten about the case, what’s left is a grieving family and a survivor whose name is forever tainted by an incident that they never intended to get themselves into in the first place.

I was 13 when I told my parents about what happened to me when I was six years old, and they gave me the best support I could ever have imagined.

The reason I can talk about being raped so openly is because I refuse to be a victim, and my family supported that thinking.

No. I’m not a victim. I am a survivor. And I wear it on my sleeve proudly. I survived something that most people don’t.

But I’m one of the lucky few. I wasn’t blamed for what happened to me. I wasn’t ostracised. This comes from my support system, all of whom helped me realise that being raped was not my fault.

Not many people are that lucky.

Some rape survivors are victims their whole lives, regardless of how much they wish to rise above it. And it’s because their so-called support system take it upon themselves to make the survivor the victim in society’s eyes.

A family being embarrassed about what happened to their child, and small-town mentality of what everyone else thinks feeds victim mentality.

Going to newspapers and referring to a sibling or child as a victim will forever entrench that kid’s view of themselves as a victim.

What we need to do as a society and as families is take the horrible experience and turn it around, so that the rapists do not have ideological power.

What happened happened. There is nothing we can do about it after the fact.

However, what we can change is our attitude toward it. We can choose to be repulsed by it, or we can choose to rise above it.

And when it comes to a rape survivor, families and friends need to bring positivity into the situation by letting the person choose how they deal with it first and not deciding for them that they are a victim.

Lots of families do this, and it’s permanently damaging, when a parent tells a child that they have a stigma, or that they have some sort of affliction.

When someone is raped or abused in any way, it leaves a scar on an entire community, but communities need to wake up and realise that as much as they are hurting, it’s not about them.

Focus on helping the survivor heal, because that person could have easily been a victim; someone who succumbed to the negativity and latched on to victim mentality.

When you call someone a victim, especially when they themselves choose not to act like one, you are objectifying them and putting them in a box with a ‘reject’ label. By calling someone a victim, you strip away the fact that they live to tell the tale and have the power (and motivation) to stop this happening to others.

By labelling someone a victim, you give the perpetrator power over them.

I chose to rise above what happened to me, and take charge of my life. I will not hide my head in shame.

(I may have my infamous red pumps as my photo, but that’s an inside joke.)

I will hold my head up high when I say that I survived.

The man who raped me could have easily killed me. More so, he could have killed my spirit.

But he didn’t. I refuse to give him that power. He may have forcibly taken my virginity, but I refuse to let him take my pride.

Dear, dear families of those who have suffered such a hideous crime, I know how you suffer.

But take note that you should never label your little girl or boy as a victim, lest he or she become one for life.

It’s about the choices that you make – and how you choose to react to sexual crime – that decides whether an abused person is going to be a survivor or a victim.

This post was originally published on Times LIVE in December 2013.