The Cost of Being Victimized

All to often our society does not realize how much harm is caused when either an adult or child is abused by an a parent or a professional (i.e. mental health, medical, clergy, law enforcement, teacher, coach, scout leader, etc.). In the past when a parent or professional  abused a child or one of their clients, students or community members –– nothing was done.  The individual who was victimized was made to feel the criminal acts were their fault.  The good news is that slowly laws against these types of abuses are becoming a reality globally.

Unfortunately, this does not change the tremendous price that those who have been victimized ends up paying.  When a person is bullied; emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, sexually, physically and or abused –– not only do they often develop various psychological issues, they also end up having to flip the bill enable to heal, which ends up costing the survivor thousands of dollars.

All too often survivors of these types of crimes may become unable to function in life, including at work.  Because of this the survivors may become financially dependent on others –– which also may include the need for them to apply for public aid and or disability –– meaning our society ends up having to financially be responsible for the action(s) of the offender.  For this amongst other reasons there has been an increasing number of States and various countries that are creating new and better laws are criminalizing these types of behaviors –– along with abolishing the statute of limitations on civil suits against those who perpetrated these types of crimes and those who cover them up.

It is also important to remember that when someone is victimized it does not only effect the survivor, yet it also effects the lives of of everyone else close to him or her.  It effects family members, close friends, including co-workers or schoolmates.

When an individual has been sexually and or emotionally exploited, the survivor often ends up paying a hefty price besides financially.  It’s not uncommon for Survivors to feel as if they lost their identity, including their sense of who they are as a person.

It’s not uncommon for those who have been victimized to feel as if they have been robbed of their own courage and or the ability to trust in others. They may also feel as they have lost confidence in their own judgement.  Questioning everything they say or do.  All to often survivors will share that they feel as if their perpetrator has taken away their integrity, their fire or spirit.  They may also feel as if all of their energy has been sucked out of them including every ounce of self-respect they had left.

When a sacred trust has been violated, the survivor also often feels that they are not safe anywhere or with anyone.  They also may feel like they lost their connections to important people in their life, including their own parents, siblings, spouse, children and or close friends.  Survivors often feel as if they are no longer able to be physically close to and or sexual with their spouse or partner.  They may also have difficulties being touched even by their children –– or platonically hugged by close friends.  When this occurs they often feel as if they don’t fit in with others and become extremely isolated from the rest of society.

Survivors will also often disclose they have trouble sleeping at night, and feel as if their offender has taken their ability to have a peaceful night of sleep.  Stating their dreams are filled with re-enactments of being victimized or other similar types of nightmares.  Survivors will also often share that they have intrusive thoughts and feelings during their while awake along with other types of flashbacks.

When the criminal act included sexual harassment, sexual abuse and or a sexual assault, the survivor may feel a change in the way they felt about their bodies.

When a survivor was victimized by a medical professional, they may be unable to seek medical care from a dentist or a doctor.   If the victimization occurred with a member of the clergy, the survivor may feel unable to go to into a house of worship or connect with their higher power –– leading them to reject any form or type of religion.  Survivors of clergy abuse may also share that they feel as if their offender murdered their soul. This is a common theme when the community they belonged to blames the person who was victimized for the criminal acts and does everything tin their power to assist the offender.

A common theme shared by many survivors includes expressing that they lost their energy and motivation for life.  Sharing they feel as if the very foundations of what they held dear and sacred was ripped out from under them.

It is not uncommon for those who have been victimized (bullied, emotionally, psychologically, physically and or sexually) to have thoughts of suicide and or to become self destructive.  This often occurs because they felt that the criminal act(s)  took their sense of self worth, dignity and self-respect away from them.  Often they will share it’s because of the loss of love and support they once felt from loved ones, friends and or their community has changed, leaving them feeling alone and isolated.

The most important question we should all be asking ourselves is how do we turn this all around.  The simple answer is to believe our children and the adults in our lives who have been victimized.  When someone you know  discloses these types of criminal behaviors, offer them all the love and support you can muster.  It’s also important to remember that it is not up to anyone except law enforcement official to investigate these crimes. We should treat those who have been victimized by emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse as if they were robbed on the street, or as if one of their loved ones were murdered.  Showing love, empathy, understanding and support helps  not only those who were victimized, it also helps to heal our universe.

About the Author
Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, with over thirty years experience in the mental health field. She is the author of The 1997 Chicagoland Area Sexual Abuse Resource Guide for Care Providers and Survivors. Vicki was the founder and director of The Awareness Center, which was the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Back in the early 2000s, Vicki founded a media watch group called “CNN-Watch” which was dedicated to exposing biases CNN had against Israel.
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