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I’m not a survivor, I’m a victim

TW: sexual assault, domestic abuse, rape, discussions of trauma

On my 15th birthday, Sept. 25, 2017, I finally got out of a three-year-long abusive relationship. It has been almost nine years since the abuse began, yet I still feel its effects every day. From the moment I look in the mirror in the morning to him haunting my dreams at night, my life is directed by my trauma.

I’ve spent the last six years healing. I’ve gone to therapy at least once a month, I’ve gotten on anti-depressants, I’ve avoided my triggers and I’ve learned how to be in a relationship. Still, I constantly am wracked with guilt over what happened to me.

Recently, Netflix adapted “The Luckiest Girl Alive” into a film starring Mila Kunis, and hearing her character’s story inspired me to share mine.

Ani is a journalist who was raped in her sophomore year of high school. She has done everything she can to move away from her past, but her trauma always seems to come back.

Watching “The Luckiest Girl Alive” made me feel so seen. Here was someone like me, doing everything they could to move away from their past and become the perfect version of themselves to mask their trauma, but like she says, “the past is never dead, it’s not even the past.”

There are days when I feel 12 years old again, sitting in my bedroom crying because he cut me off again, knowing that I was suicidal, because I didn’t want to do what he asked that night.

Sometimes when I get out of the shower and I look at my body without clothes, I can’t stand the sight. I still pick at my skin and scar it just to feel something.

My friends, my parents and my colleagues don’t see this, and that is all intentional. I have made myself a perfect person. A girl who works three jobs, has straight A’s and always manages to have her makeup done and her outfit perfect. Everyone tells me I’m the most put-together person that they know and that I’m, “So mature for just 20 years old,” but sometimes on the inside, I’m completely falling apart.

After I got out of the relationship, I wasn’t angry about what happened to me. I feel so guilty about this, but I was actually sad.

I loved him, he was my whole world. I made enemies and was the “town slut” of my school so I could have him. I was so broken and in need of love that when he found me, I was easy to manipulate and couldn’t even admit that I was being abused until almost a year later.

Ani struggles with that too. It takes her a long time to really come to terms with her rape, and even when she does, the world doesn’t let her be a victim because her abusers “had it worse.”

I have always felt like I’m not a true domestic abuse victim. He never hit me or even touched me as our relationship only really played out online, yet here I am years later still unlearning everything he taught me and haunted by his abuse. Doesn’t that make me a victim too?

The longer time has gone by the more I’ve accepted the label of victim. Survivors have gone through something and come out the other side better. They’ve grown and found power through their struggle.

That’s not me and that’s not Ani. There is no other side for us to get to because we relive it over and over every day. We were victims. People who were taken advantage of and scarred. So now, all I feel is anger.

One of the most powerful moments of the movie is when Ani confronts one of her rapists and she says something that a lot of women can relate to. “My anger is like carbon monoxide. It’s odorless, tasteless, colorless and completely toxic but only to me.”

Hearing that was like a light switch had gone off in my head. All these years I’ve been keeping my anger in, thinking that I wasn’t letting it affect me, but in all honesty, it probably was the thing hurting me the most. I have been so angry for so long, but I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be.

Women aren’t allowed to be angry, we aren’t allowed to just want to punch a wall and yell at the top of our lungs. Instead, we hold it together until it boils over and we can’t do it anymore. So I’m letting myself be angry.

I’m pissed. Not only for me now, but for the 12-year-old girl I was when I got taken advantage of. I’m angry that my perception of sex and relationships was warped before I even had my first kiss. I’m angry that I’m affected by this every day and he’s not.

“The Luckiest Girl Alive” has taught me so much about my own trauma and made me feel heard as a victim who still struggles with her past years on. The movie helped me find my own rage and brought me to a new step in my healing journey.

Today I’m able to say that I’m a victim and a fucking angry one at that.

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