Tuesday, November 16, 2010

“Ask Me No Questions and I’ll Tell You No Lies”

By Donna Gore, M.A. 

There is no denying a survivor of crime’s pain no matter what form it takes, whether it is homicide, stalking, assault, domestic violence, a hate crime, home invasion, kidnapping etc., they all represent long lasting violations on the human condition.

However, as a homicide survivor, I cannot stand in judgment of those who have experienced any one of these types of crimes. For me to pre-suppose and say I have “walked in their shoes” would seem somewhat arrogant. Why....? ‘Because an apple is not identical to an orange….. My environment, education and life experience is unique unto me and therefore, I cannot say “I know what you are going through” in the true sense. But, we do have commonalities. This is what keeps me humble, for I really don’t have any idea what anyone is burdened with on a day to day basis, irrespective of crime.

It struck me when reading about someone else‘s victimization recently that I cannot embrace everyone’s pain all of the time. I am one of the most compassionate people on earth. BUT, it cannot be squandered. In the language of professional therapists, I believe they refer to “compassion fatigue,” a type of burnout, as a very real pitfall in certain professions.

I raise these issues as I want to discuss the difference between “Victim” versus “Survivor” and “Entitlement” versus “Reality.” I can personally affiliate with a number of oppressed minorities should I choose to, at any given time. These include –female, LGBT community member, physically challenged member, homicide survivor, lefty/left-handed, person surviving a ridiculous number of surgical procedures as a child…..

Given all of these minority based affiliations, I am well aware of the difference between victims versus survivor.

I caution all survivors of crime, that if we are not careful to protect our psyche, we can easily step over the line.

According to the 2010 Random House dictionary a “Victim” can be: 

1) A person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency: (as in a victim of an automobile accident).

2) A person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: (as in a victim of misplaced confidence; the victim of a swindler; a victim of an optical illusion).

3) A person or animal sacrificed or regarded as sacrificed (as in war victims).

4) A living creature sacrificed in religious rites.

(You can judge for yourself whether these are illuminating examples of “victim hood.” DRG)

I can attest to the fact that we are sufferers of destruction and injury, deceived and cheated, at times by our own emotions and sacrificed at the expense of others’ actions.

“Survivor” definitions that apply can be:

1) A person or thing that survives.

2) A person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

***The second definition, ladies and gentlemen, is what we strive for and the equivalent of the “Take Back the Night” rallies.

Entitlement Definition: To give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim.

(Such a definition appears hollow and without substance or context. DRG).

Aren’t we entitled to our rights as crime victims? Aren’t we entitled to our anger and respect? Aren’t we entitled to revenge…. Or to have our loved one back again…or our body and mind restored to health …or to feel safe again? We are entitled, aren’t we?

Contrast Entitlement with Reality, or the knowledge that life, indeed is more often “not fair” despite our best efforts. Survivors of crime eventually come to know that they cannot resolve the “why me why us” and must move on to address the “what next” instead!

So, when crime happens to you, what is your alternative? You sit around the circle of the support group and listen, or cry, or contribute. Alternately, you can become an advocate/activist or you can become stuck in your anger until it destroys the fiber of your being. You may also continue to deny, place blame on everyone else for your prolonged dysfunction or escape to a fantasy world. All of these negative responses feel like lies, as they are not “who we used to be.”

**But the bigger lie is to not place blame squarely on the perpetrator(s) and at times, the vulnerability and/ or unwise decisions of those murdered. It’s a slippery slope when you allow your emotions to become an indictment of society as a whole. You have so many conflicting emotions that you lose perspective.

In my opinion, the difference between being a victim and a survivor is huge. The key to crossing over to survivor status is motivation. I can say with certainty that we all start out as a victim- a victim of the event itself a victim of circumstances that follow, a victim of “the system.” And then, slowly but surely, if we are fortunate enough to receive support and counseling designed specifically for this experience, we see that wallowing in our own victimization ends up being worse than death itself and a luxury we cannot afford.

Rather, some of us realize that to use our grief toward positive outcomes for others is in itself immensely therapeutic…. and the only conceivable path for “a new day.”

So I say, carry on as best you can, healing more with each day looking forward and taking control of your life in the smallest of ways. To do otherwise, is giving power to the perpetrator(s) and sinking your soul into the abyss.

Respectfully Submitted,
Donna R. Gore, M. A.
Homicide Survivor from Connecticut

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