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The Empowered Victim

When the victim sits on my couch feeling like something has happened that they couldn't control, they're right. And yet, if that's all we talk about, I have failed at my job.

Many people feel shame at their frozenness in the midst of scary situations. We've told them that they should do something: yell, scream, punch, kick. But we haven't taken into consideration that their brains have done some very quick, very effective math to calculate their best chances at survival and have come up with "Freeze" as the most necessary response. Because sometimes it's not just their body that's in danger. Sometimes there's also fear about losing their social standing. They'll be shamed. They'll be embarrassed, ridiculed, threatened, blackmailed. They'll lose their job. They'll lose the person they felt was their friend. "Freeze" isn't a lesser response; it's a more complicated one.

Being the victim feels like having no power. In some ways I don't, but in others I do. Even if my brain made me freeze when it happened, I have new options now. Now I can cry. And feel. And use my voice. And re-write my story. And advocate for others like me. And empathize with others like me. Now I can do something with my survival.

Unsplash photo cred: Han Tu

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