Everybody reading this either knows of or has experienced a situation in which systems have failed to hold people accountable for hurting someone.
Many of us know of or have experienced situations in which the people hurt were the people who ended up being blamed and/or shamed.
It’s often asked why someone would bother coming forward to share their experience, if this is the predicable, consistent outcome.
You don’t have to be a legal scholar to see that systems of accountability and justice seem to be broken.
I don’t know what to do about those systems. My training and experience isn’t in making laws of prosecuting criminals.
What I do know is that the fact that systems often fail survivors often ricochets back on survivors, emotionally.
You, the survivor reading this, need to know that your experience was real and is valid, no matter what the system does or doesn’t do.
The reality of your experience is not determined by whether anybody believes it.
What happened, happened— and it had exactly the impact it had.
The fallout is real. You’re not imagining it. You’re not attention seeking. You’re not trying to “ruin someone’s life” by speaking out.
I need you to know that, because you are GOING to get ALL kinds of messages about not only why you’re doing what you’re doing, but why you’re even experiencing what you’re experiencing.
People will project ALL kinds of motivations onto you.
When survivors come forward and describe what they’ve been through, it triggers feelings of vulnerability and shame for a LOT of people— and unfortunately, a LOT of people respond to those feelings by questioning the reality of what they’re being told.
We don’t LIKE to think that we’re vulnerable.
We WANT to think that, if we’re just smart and strong enough, we can avoid being victimized.
You need to understand that, in their minds, your story isn’t about you— it’s about what COULD have happened to them. And it terrifies them.
So: they’ll turn to denial to help them feel better.
The situation couldn’t have been THAT bad, they’ll say. SURELY there’s more to the story. SURELY you’re not THAT affected. What’s your REAL motivation here?
Don’t let it get in your head.
I’ve worked with hundreds of survivors who have doubted their own life experience for a number of reasons. The memories aren’t all there, the memories are incomplete, the memories don’t seem to make any sense; the family is pushing back; the legal system’s let them down.
You’ll be able to find dozens of reasons what you went through just didn’t happen, if you really want to look for ‘em.
But none of those reasons negates the impact what you went through had on your body and mind.
The fallout is still real, whether you or anybody else believes your experience.
PTSD doesn’t care whether the court or your family or public opinion acknowledges what happened to you.
We have to deal with what we have to deal with, whether to not anyone EVER validates us.
Your worth exists independent of anyone else’s acceptance.
Your experience exists independent of anyone else’s corroboration.
Your pain is real, whether or not anyone else wants to believe you.
I need you to know that. Really, really know that.
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