At some point in everyone’s life comes the experience of victimhood. Whether the perpetrator is a system – the patriarchy, capitalist power structures, government– or an individual – an abusive boyfriend, a cheating wife, a nameless pickpocket – it’s only natural to feel upset. You have been wronged and therefore whatever negative emotions flow through your body are valid. 

Once the initial reaction has passed and some form of resolution has been enacted – filing a restraining order, organizing a protest, processing it in therapy – it is time to release these negative thought patterns so that we can move on with our lives. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done, and depending on the extent of the damage done, some injustices take longer to recover from than others.  

But if we fail to separate the idea of falling victim to an injustice and victimhood as an identity, we are doomed to a life of helplessness – where it feels like the world is out to get us and where we must rely on external forces for protection. I for one have been shaped by this damsel-in-distress sense of victimhood for nearly all of my adult life and I am finally doing the work necessary to shift my view of self, so that my decision-making going forward is influenced by love, not fear. 

I think for women who grew up in feminist-leaning cultures, this letting go process can be particularly difficult. We are constantly inundated with messages about how scary the world is and how dangerous men are. “Don’t walk there alone at night. Never let a strange man into your home. Don’t dress too provocatively or you will attract unwanted attention.” Our cultural obsession with true crimes against vulnerable, young women runs deep in our psyches. 

Sensuali Blog: Women as victims
Laura Palmer of the cult classic TV show, Twin Peaks, is often credited with being the OG pretty, dead white girl who inspired a culture that romanticizes dead girls and glamorizes violence against women. (Photo Source: Fandom)

Moreover, when we do fall prey to atrocities such as domestic abuse, we are constantly reminded that; “This was not your fault. You are the innocent victim here.” Having been sexually assaulted and physically abused, I initially adopted the tough girl attitude of, “This is on me. I put myself in these dangerous situations. I ignored my intuition. I learned my lesson and I am stronger for it.” But once in therapy, my perception did a complete 180: “My boyfriend was a piece of shit. I am the faultless victim here who doesn’t need to take accountability whatsoever for the lying and cheating I partook in during the course of that relationship because he hit me.” 

For years I wore my survivor-of-abuse status as a badge of honor, signaling to others how resilient I was for being able to overcome such horrid traumas. Don’t get me wrong, I did go through some shit and was unfairly treated. But clinging to the victim narrative stunted my personal development and perpetuated an endless cycle of re-victimization, in which I was constantly putting blame on others without looking at myself and the behavior patterns that kept attracting manipulative narcissists into my orbit. 

The feminist movement started as a means of empowering women and leveling the playing field, and while I think it has accomplished these goals in a myriad of ways, it has also resulted in the unintended consequence of a generation of hyper-sensitive women who take offense at the slightest of miscommunications (i.e a woman interpreting a man smiling at her on the subway as objectification) and who fail to hold themselves accountable for their own wrongs. 

Here is the 4 step process I’ve implemented to combat damsel-in-distress conditioning in my own life, and which I hope serves as a blueprint for helping others process and move past trauma in a way that is truly empowering: 

Become aware of an injustice and feel your feelings.

Sensuali Blog: Feel your feelings
Honor your feelings, no matter who or what tries to invalidate them.

Oftentimes we are totally unaware that we are being wronged. Whether it’s the enlightenment a woman experiences upon taking her first sociology course in uni and realizing just how deep the white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy runs or 20-year-old me unpacking the abuse I had been subjected to at the hands of my first love in therapy (I had no other relationship to compare it to, so I had no idea how abnormal the way he treated me was), this awakening typically occurs when our perspective widens. 

We feel anger at the system or person who wronged us, but also anger at ourselves for being dumb enough to put up with the bullshit for as long as we did. In the instance of my first boyfriend, I wanted him to suffer the way he had made me suffer. Don’t try to suppress your feelings at this time, no matter how evil they may seem. If we suppress them, they get stuck inside of us rather than flowing through our bodies, and this makes it much harder to move forward.

Sadness morphs into depression; anger into bitterness. Meditate, cry it out, binge eat ice cream, go on a bender – do whatever you gotta do to process. This is your time to be messy and unfiltered. Skipping this step is a sure fire way to wind up in a similar predicament because it denies your experience and therefore prevents you from developing a sense of awareness. 

Detach from your ego so that you can review the situation free from bias.

Sensuali Blog: Widen your perspective
My favorite way to detach from my ego and shift my perspective? Taking psychedelics.

This is where the modern-day feminist narrative typically stops. We tend to get so wrapped up in our own shit aka ego that we lose sight of the bigger picture. If someone mistreated you, it has much more to do with them than it does you. Clearly they have some shit they need to work out themselves – whether it’s breaking free from societal conditioning (i.e a man who has grown up in a culture that idolizes womanizers is likely to behave like a fuckboy) or addressing past traumas (i.e in the case of my boyfriend, he had grown up with a controlling, verbally abusive father and derived power from treating women in a similar fashion). 

This isn’t about making excuses for people. Just because your dad was an asshole doesn’t excuse you from being an asshole. But it does foster a deeper understanding of how and why the situation came to be – a crucial step to avoid winding up in the same nightmare down the line. Furthermore, it shifts your lens from one of hate to one of love and empathy. Again, it doesn’t excuse the injustice but it gives you the insights necessary to be the bigger person; to forgive and forget. 

As radical as it might sound to some, I am convinced that the majority of chronic illness stems from our inability to let go of negative emotions. Beat me up once, shame on you. Hang on to anger about you beating me up for years and develop cancer as a result, shame on me – for being so god damn stubborn and letting you take up rent-free space in my brain for all that time. What a waste!

Let go of attachment to any and all possible outcomes.

Sensuali Blog: Learning to let go
As the Buddha says, “The root of all suffering is attachment.”

In a perfect world, an unfair action is rectified. Maybe it’s a heartfelt apology from an ex or the enactment of a piece of legislation designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace. There’s nothing wrong with holding idealistic values as long as you’re not deluded enough to think that the world is an idealistic place. We can hope for an outcome that offers closure and makes us feel good about ourselves. 

There’s nothing wrong with that. But we can’t get attached to the outcome. If we do, then the outcome becomes our source of happiness — if things play out in our favor – or anguish – if the results are not what we hoped for. This is fundamentally disempowering because it makes us dependent on a source outside of ourselves for contentment. 

Let’s be real – it’s very unlikely that the narcissist who abused you will ever garner the level of introspection required to fully comprehend his wrongs and make amends for them. In the same vain, having institutional gender discrimination entirely erased and replaced with an all-inclusive system of wokeness is probably not in the cards, at least not in this lifetime. There is honor in trying our best to show someone the light or enact meaningful change for future generations to come. But we can’t make the results of such actions our end-all-be-all.

I used to be so obsessed with explaining to a man how he had wronged me, in hopes that he would change his behavior – if not for me than for the next poor girl who was bound to fall in love with him. But more times than not, my words fell on deaf ears. I had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t control other people’s actions. All I have control over is who and what I give my energy to and how I react to things. 

Address your own personal failings so that you can make adjustments and evolve.

Sensuali Blog: Self-reflection
Taking a good, hard look at yourself through self-reflection is tough, but well worth it in the long run.

I 1000% get the whole, “Don’t blame the victim” rhetoric being espoused in feminist circles. A woman wearing a revealing outfit is certainly not asking to be raped. But over-identifying with such an ideology perpetuates messaging that is unintentionally disempowering. In my case, I hung on so tightly to the notion that my ex-boyfriend was a monster who had wronged innocent little me, that I was unable to take an unflinching and honest look at my own behaviors – not setting boundaries, ignoring my intuition, isolating myself from my support group – that had contributed to things getting as dire as they did.

Instead, I viewed myself as a faultless angel who need not take any accountability for her part in how things played out. Rather than channel my experiences into lessons on how to show up in the world as a strong woman, I became distrustful of men – deeming them the enemy. “Men will always try to control me in some shape or form.” I would tell myself. As a result, I became Machiavellian in my approach to dating – protecting myself from ever giving away my power again through manipulative mind games of push-and-pull. 

I truly felt as though I had gamed the system; that this femme fatale character was my key to power. But a woman who builds up emotional walls and lacks the capacity to be vulnerable and take responsibility for her misdeeds is not empowered. She is scared; terrified of letting anyone in and falling in love. True power comes from the ability to own our weaknesses. If we cannot shed light on our mistakes and blind spots, we cannot grow. The moment I started taking accountability for my actions was the moment the curse of victimization was lifted. 

Advice
empowerment
Feminism
Feminist
psychology of sex
Jules

Jules

Author

Based in Brooklyn, Jules has dedicated her twenties towards harnessing her pussy power, exploring the muse, whore, and wild woman archetypes along the way. When not blogging, you can find her sweating the toxins out in a hot yoga class or sipping a matcha latte at a pretentious coffee shop, whilst she scribbles away in her journal.


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