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Am I the Victim? Or the Perpetrator?

DragonFly Tales

Am I the Victim? Or the Perpetrator?

The veil is thin between victim and perpetrator. Some would say they are each a side of the coin. I am not an expert, or specialist in this area, but I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the behavior that brings one to become a suspect in my sister’s murder.

There is most always abuse.

And this dynamic has become intolerable in my present life.

Before, you know, the time before my sister was abducted and found murdered in the woods, the time before I had to meet with detectives and talk about a motive about why someone would kill my sister, the time when I didn’t know much or could possibly believe how much one could hurt another. I believed that abuse was physical. I was raised in the age of the 90’s when the Superintendent of our high school told my parents when a boy persistently grabbed my breasts on the school bus, that “boys will be boys”. And, my father had to drive me to school until I got my license. We accepted abuse to a limit, but that limit was really hazy, so as I grew older I let that line blur more and more. Until I found myself in abusive relationship after abusive relationship.

(*when I say relationship, I am including friendships too*)

I’d ask myself all the obvious questions, did I deserve this? Was I making them hurt me like this? It must be me because everyone thought they were so great. They were funny and talented. They were popular. Just like my old Superintendent projected the blame from the perpetrator, I shifted the responsibility in my mind. I owned it.

Then one day, I woke up 101 miles from home. Alone and facing a situation much like the one’s I had found myself in, in the past. Again, I asked myself, what did I do? Did I deserve this?

I wondered if I was the perpetrator or the victim, or both?

Every perpetrator has been a victim. Whatever I was, I decided I would not be the perpetrator. I had to make some hard choices and draw some strong lines in the sand. I had to repeat the mantra of self-care and preservation. I had to spend a lot of time alone and hours in therapy sessions. I had to give grace to those who were still stuck in their toxic cycles, while simultaneously growing and knowing about it with me. I had to say a lot of goodbyes without any words.

But here I stand, not in any final destination place, not fully healed, but somewhere that I know that I am neither victim or perpetrator. I am just okay.

In this place though, there are people who don’t think that “boys will be boys” and hold accountability to those who harm others. They support each other when they are brave. There are new people, and some that have always been here, but they shine brighter to me now.

As I write this on a starry Cape Cod night, my Christmas wish this year, is that every person who is caught in one of these cycles has the bravery to face it, survive it, and move through it. And, those of us watching abuse and normalizing it, find their own bravery to admit that this is not okay.

After all, it’s just us, and isn’t the point to take care of each other?

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