Self Portrait as a Victim

by Snail


I was in an abusive relationship for seven years. This artwork is about the process of being victimized in two different ways: once by the original aggressor, and once by myself. When I was in school, I was brutally bullied on a daily basis, and I was repeatedly punished for tattling. I was told that it was my fault, for being sensitive, for having feelings, for being a pacifist, and for somehow “making myself a target.” When I grew up, I fell into the same pattern. Every time my abuser beat me and raped me, I kept it secret because I expected the same kind of invalidation. I blamed myself for giving my power away, as though I were the one doing something wrong by choosing to feel harmed by something harmful. I never went to the police. I was sure I would be killed if I told. To this day, I still don’t trust anyone to protect me. I have heard the stories. I have heard that the police are just as ineffective as the teachers were. It gives people a false feeling of empowerment to blame the one who has been harmed instead of acknowledging that an attacker might have the ability to cause harm against the victim’s will. It feels safer to pretend that a person can only be harmed if she chooses to be, but that is not the truth. Vulnerability exists, and it is not a flaw.