Growing Up Jeub · Justice and Advocacy

Being a Perfect Victim

This is a repost from the archives. For an update, see my post “The Pity Accusation.”

Yesterday, my brother Micah posted on my Facebook timeline. He didn’t address me directly – he was telling people not to believe the stories I was “making up” about my family.

It took me by surprise a bit, but it didn’t bother me too much. I sent my brother, who is 17, a message to ask what was up.

Then came the sympathy. I got private messages, texts, and a re-post to a secret group. Comments supporting me. That’s when I realized that dozens of people were watching, and that’s what bothered me.

Nobody did anything wrong – the responses were all understandable. I just knew that everyone was waiting for my response. It would take me three hours to come up with something that clearly communicated what I felt.

I had to strategize. It wouldn’t look good to accuse him of trying to promote his social networking presence. I needed to show compassion toward my brother, which I did feel. I hated the fact that I needed to do damage control to preserve my reputation.

I fell asleep on the floor in a patch of sunlight, drifting away from the existential spinning thoughts. I shouldn’t have to carefully plan my moves, because this isn’t a game. Were I to respond in kind, however, I wouldn’t have gotten such positive feedback.

My response was all care, no anger. I asked that nobody say anything hateful to my brother, and to affirm his truth.

“I admire you,” they said. “You’re a class act.”

If I didn’t take the time to step back, think clearly, and come up with something that looked good, though, would I still receive the same support?

My angry, hurt, frustrated writings don’t get published. They’re not blog-worthy. I write what’s raw, and then I form it into something more constructive. I give it time, because I know how to play this game.

I hate that it’s a game. It shouldn’t be. It also scares me.

Being a survivor in the spotlight is just as dangerous as being in the spotlight for any other reason. The audience is fickle. I see the way people admire me, and I know it’s because I haven’t slipped up yet. I’m the perfect victim – calm, cool, collected, but still honest and believable in the stories I tell.

Some people don’t have what I do, and people don’t listen to them. They sound angry, or not very well-spoken.

I’m angry, too. I have to take care of myself before I can come up with what to say. I know I’ll slip and lash out eventually, because I’m human, and this whole situation sucks. It would be abnormal for me not to feel the bitterness and grief and depression that I experience every day.

The spectators see my family members throwing me a curveball, and they watch to see my response. I want to scream and run away from the playing field, because this isn’t a goddamn game.

So, why didn’t I do that?

It wouldn’t look as good. People are counting on me to be the perfect victim. My two choices are to perform well, or not to perform well. I do my best to be honest, compassionate, and kind, without whitewashing the truth of what happened.

We shouldn’t demand perfection from victims. I know we still do, because I feel the pressure and see the response.

You didn’t do anything wrong in supporting me. I just wonder: would you do the same if I’d said something more emotional?