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‘Victim’ is not my identity

By Kathryn Daley - posted Friday, 24 August 2007

A friend of mine was recently in my arms in tears of distress. This wonderful woman whom I adore and respect in equal and significant measure, took a deep breath from her sobbing and said this: “How can I be saying all of this to you when you have had like the worst life anyone could live?”

Now I love her to pieces and she knows me better than most, but suggesting that I have had a bad life, let alone the worst, is a complete fallacy. I have lived an exceptionally good life. But she, like many, is firmly entrenched in the idea that I am a victim of the cardinal sin. I have been raped. Not the violent attack perpetrated by a stranger in a dark alley that you are envisaging. Rather, my father used to creep into my bed and use my infantile body for his sexual pleasure.

I was too young to know that it was morally wrong - what are morals to a four-year-old? But I knew that it felt wrong, and for the sociologists who argue that there is no inherent right or wrong, I assure you that such an act is indeed inherently wrong on so many levels. So eventually I disclosed my secret to escape the pain. I am not so sure that speaking up was a choice as such, more so a fundamental necessity, but my life changed the day that I did.


As a society we like to think that we are fair and equal. We strive not to pass judgment and to be understanding of individual differences. We are breaking down barriers as we attempt to be critical of stereotypes. Social taboos are decreasing as we become more and more open to thought and discourse on a wide variety of previously undiscussed issues.

In Western culture, conversation about sex is rampant and there is much published on child abuse. But for the most part its focus is on the “survivors”, the “victims”, of this detestable act. Manifested in assumption already, we are faced with the stereotypical “victim” of rape.

Victimhood is a role; however, it doesn’t interest me. Speaking of my life events in such a nonchalant way rattles most. The rape victim should be in tears when she speaks of her shameful past. When discussed en masse it would be in group therapy not a university tutorial. In this wave of political correctness, we have learnt that survivors of childhood abuse need to feel included and not made to feel different. The problem is that by consciously doing this, society has already segregated them.

I was incestuously molested and this changed my life: for better or worse I do not know. All that I know is that I have seen things that I may not have seen otherwise in some other life.

Am I over it? Well how long is a piece of string? Rape has more than one victim. I am over the act, but will, for the rest of my life be faced with the repercussions. The social stigma of childhood molestation is immediate in its effects. I had to relive my story over and over to each police officer and detective. To the social worker successfully fighting for my father to have supervised access so as “not to break up the family unit”, and to his lawyer who then explained that if I testified I would be sending my dad to jail. “Did I really want that?” “How would that make my brother feel?”

Offering an explanation at my new school for why I didn’t have a dad in a time when everyone had a nuclear family was always a challenge. I could only be at school for half a day on Thursday’s to make sure I got to my psychiatrist in time. Not your average extra-curricular activity by any stretch.


After several years my excuses for leaving early were waning in creativity. I don’t know how, but I knew all too well that I shouldn’t be talking about my shrink like we do about the “normal” doctors. I learnt young - too young - that sadness must be hidden; that society is more adept at dealing with blood than tears; with anger than sorrow.

More than a decade later I started dating. My boyfriend thought that I was a virgin and I was scared to tell him the truth. Inevitably, I was so anxious that I wouldn’t bleed the first time I told him. He cried and I held him. He never discussed it again.

Slightly over a year later, we broke up - most relationships do. What I didn’t expect was that my abuse would provide his reasoning to avoid injuring his own ego. His possessive insecurity was what made me call it a day, but I am sure that he probably still attributes it to the “unhealed wounds” of my childhood. Whoever would have thought that a DJ would be applying Freudian theory to high school heartbreak?

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About the Author

Kathryn Daley is an undergraduate student in a degree at RMIT University to which she mistakenly enrolled. However she very much looks forward to completing this to compensate for her high school failure. Her interests are education (and she is aware of the irony), substance use, dance, and working with adolescents, particularly in the aforementioned areas.

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