A Victim’s Choice

One of the things I love about the Olympics is hearing the incredible stories of some of the athlete’s lives.  I have been following the story of Kayla Harrison, who just won the Olympic gold medal for Judo.   Here is a small piece of her story.

Yet winning gold has not been the most difficult challenge of Harrison’s life. When she arrived at Pedro’s training center in 2007, she was an emotionally devastated 16-year-old who had suffered years of sexual abuse by a former coach. She lacked self-esteem, had suicidal thoughts, and hated judo because the sport’s small community whispered about the abuse.

Like many survivors of sexual and physical abuse, she found someone to trust and help her heal from the abuse. She found a champion to help her fight.  Then she found the courage to share her story. In the article she says, “I wanted to tell my story and I wanted to get it out to victims all over the world,” said Harrison, originally from Middletown, Ohio, who first discussed her sexual abuse publicly last fall. “I wanted people to know it was OK. It was definitely therapeutic. The first time I told the story I cried the whole time. It got a little bit easier every time.”

 Social media and the press have shared her story since the Olympics began.  Someone made this comment on a site yesterday, “The key word here is: SURVIVOR… She chose to NOT be a VICTIM!”  I often hear this type of statement when someone shares a story of healing.   It is a statement that while I believe to hold truth, is also a statement of condemnation for someone still struggling with their life.

I had my choices taken away from me the first time someone sexually abused me as a young child.  I had no choice when an adult hit, slapped, or threw me down as a little girl. As the abuse continued, my choices disappeared.  When I was an adult, I only knew what I learned as a child.  I had no defenders.  Those who might have made a difference, made their own choice not to interfere.  I did not CHOOSE to be a victim.  That was a CHOISE someone else made for me as a very little, scared, helpless child.

I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I will be done with this crap and be a survivor.”  Like Kayla, someone came into my life and helped me find a way to heal.  Yes, I had to make the choice to do the work. I had to find the courage to tell my story.  When I was an older child, I tried to tell someone but they didn’t (or chose not to) hear.  The biggest fear is sharing my story is the fear of not being believed.

Today I am a “thriver.”   I am also a victim of childhood sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse.  For me to say, I am not a victim, is to deny what happened to me. I survived.  Surviving means I lived through it and continued to exist; just exist.  Then someone reached out, believed me, saw my pain, and helped me tell my story.  I became a “thriver”.  I started to flourish and grow.  I found support and I found a way to reach out and support others in their journey.

This is my truth and this is how it works for me. If you are finding your way or have already become a “thriver”, find what works for you.   Most of us will never win an Olympic gold medal, but we can fight to reclaim our right to choices.  Today I have the choice to live my life as a “thriver.”

“We can’t control what happened, we can’t control what has been lost. What we can control is how we fight to take that control back, and the voice within us is powerful in doing so….”      Cathy Gipson


17 responses

  1. Cathy, I appreciate your comments. As a victim of child abuse, I agree that children don’t have a choice. I also believe that very often adults don’t realize they have choices either. We all need help to live rich, happy lives — regardless of where we come from. Anyone who claims to have succeeded by their strength and determination alone isn’t really thinking it through.


  2. Moving article thanks Cathy – strange enough I have just listened to a podcast on forgiveness – very controversial – you might want to listen – just stay open minded !!


  3. This is a nice post. When my mom was young, she was a victim of abuse, but she managed to put it behind her enough that she could still succeed. I’m not sure who all the people were in her earlier life that allowed her to begin her journey to thriving, but I know my dad was a big part of it later on. And I know my sister and I grew up believing that we could tell her *anything* and she would believe us and help us. I ache for all those who grew up without that sort of unconditional safety net, and I admire those of you who tell your story so that others may learn and heal.


  4. I love the distinctions you make here. It’s damned hard to let go of the past…to let go of what was done to us. One thing I have been striving for is to get to the place where I no longer feel like a victim and the best way I can describe it is that it is a choice to go through the process of healing, but we first must understand and acknowledge that we were victims!


    1. Thanks Karen. I don’t feel like a victim any longer. It took a lot of help and hope and healing. You are right..we first have to know where we began.


  5. I’m going to share this with a friend who has a similar story. She, too, is a thriver. A wonderful word!
    Excellent post.


  6. Love the way you say you are “thriving!” Proud of you for sharing your story but also moving forward. Keep fighting! And keep influencing and inspiring others!


  7. Cathy, I absolutely loved this post. The victim mentality drives me crazy…having said that, yes we survivors are all victims. It’s just that some of us do Choose to do the hard work of healing and possibly even forgiving. We can live a better life, we can thrive -but it’s hard hard work.

    My recent reconcilliation with my mom after 12 years of estrangement wasn’t ‘luck’ -it was the result of years and years of pain, grieving, anger followed by me hitting my own bottom (having to let go of resentment long enough to hear mom’s side). I had the opportunity to forgive and surprised myself by being able to do it. It’s taken 3 posts to write about so far.

    I relate to your story very much. Thank you.


    1. Thank you for your comments. I have written a few times about forgiveness and the journey in doing that. I still find a reason to write about it from time to time.
      Yes, it is work, but life is amazing because of it.


  8. […] over at Cathy’s Voice Now also wrote about Kayla Harrison, and her writing on the distinction between ‘victim’, […]


  9. […] over at Cathy’s Voice Now also wrote about Kayla Harrison, and her writing on the distinction between ‘victim’, […]


  10. Those are some difficult distinctions. To me being victimized is not the same as being a victim. And surviving is different than moving on – or as you put it thriving. No matter how you cut it, though, I think Kayla Harrison’s story is a great positive example of what can happen should we all take the time to stop and help others when they are hurting. Great post.


  11. Ms. Cathy, I have nominated you for the 7 Things About Me Award. As far as I know, there are only three rules.

    1.) Thank the blogger who nominated you.
    2.) Share 7 things about yourself.
    3.) Nominate other bloggers you think deserve the award and post on their blog to let them know they’ve been nominated.

    You can also read about my nomination on my blog at: http://thephoenixaria.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/7-things-about-you-award/


    1. Thanks. I love blog awards!!


  12. A “Thriver.”

    I sooo love that.

    Fabulous post. ❤


  13. […] A Victim’s Choice (cathysvoicenow.wordpress.com) […]


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