I have been thinking a lot lately how harmful our self talk can be toI have found myself over the years talking about my trauma and saying things like “ but I was only a kid,” “but I was a smart kid,” “but I was going through a hard time,” “but I was in a vulnerable situation,” etc.
I was sexually abused but I was only a kid.
our growth. And even if we don’t intend to, we can negate our experiences by using the word but.
Typically when we say things such as “but I was just a kid” or “but I was going through a hard time” we are making excuses for ourselves. What comes to my mind is “I did _______ one time, but I was just a kid.” Or “I was involved in _______, but I was going through a hard time.”
It’s the but.
But is a conjunction that is used to show contrast in a sentence by usually dening or rejecting, in some way, what the first part of the sentence is trying to get across. So why am I using but to talk about my trauma that DID IN FACT happen and WAS NOT IN ANY WAY my fault? I think the answer is because we train ourselves to use it. When you first talk about trauma, shame hovers over you. You feel little. You feel like that experience is all-encompassing. You feel like you need to justify why you are now more insignificant, damaged, different, ect. than you were before this traumatic experience. You use but to make an excuse for yourself. Or, in my case, maybe you use it to make an excuse for your perpetrator. By using the word but, I’m not believing my own experience and I’m saying there was motive for the perpetrator that I somehow caused by being young, vulnerable, whatever.
I believe myself. I believe my experience. It has taken me a lot of years and therapy to believe myself. However, I am still using the word. BUT. Even though I believe myself, I think it can still be very harmful to my mind to use the word but when I talk about my experience. I think it can also be harmful to other people’s stories. By saying “but I was just a kid” am I implying that being young is the exception and had I been older I would not have *ALLOWED* myself to fall in the trap of sexual assault? Or does “but I was going through a hard time” insinuate that if I was happier with my life then I would not have *ALLOWED* myself to fall victim to a sexual predator? NO. No. no.
I KNOW these are not true. I KNOW I had no control over that situation and making excuses for ~why~ I was assaulted is not helpful to my story, 15 year old me, other victims, or rape culture in general.
I know we don’t do this on purpose. We are trained and conditioned, like I said. WE ARE TRAUMATIZED. So be easy on yourself if you do say these things. This isn’t something you need to change about yourself, however, consider how your inner voice makes you feel. And maybe help your inner voice believe your story by using the word AND instead.
My name is Jocelyn and I have experienced sexual violence.
But AND I was a kid.
But AND I was going through a hard time.
But AND I had no control over the situation.
But AND I believe myself, my experience, and others’ experiences.