“Do you believe there are professional victims?” a journalist once asked me.
“Yes.” I said, although I had not really given the matter much thought. It’s been close to a year since that interview and the question has been lodged in the back of my mind.
What is a professional victim? It sounds like someone making money off their story about being victimized, or possibly making money off the stories of other victims. Now, I do not believe it’s wrong for someone, after devoting weeks, months, and possibly years, of writing their story into a book to profit from the fruit of their efforts.
If it helps bring closure for themselves and others, that is for the good. Everyone is entitled to tell their story and draw whatever life lessons they can from it. What happens after the book? Will we be reading any story about how they have overcome adversity and have now embarked on a brand new enterprise? Preferably, one that has nothing to do with being a victim?
What did they pursue before their victimization? Have they discovered what was lost before the terrible events affected their lives?
What if they weren’t pursuing anything? What if they were victimized from the moment they popped out of the womb? If you’re born in America, or anywhere else in the world, chances are you were abused at least once in life. As Bill Maher pointed out, you’re slapped on the ass when you’re born!
What kind of welcome is that? Maybe we all start out abused with the first slap coming from the doctor? If you have nothing to talk about except abuse upon abuse, and that’s your only stock in trade, does that make you a professional victim?
I have met a couple of victims who immediately talk about forming nonprofit organizations. Since nonprofits can be quite profitable, does that make them ‘professional victims’? Do we really need another nonprofit organization?
Normally, I advise against starting organizations. If every victim starts nonprofit organizations, who will be left to join these organizations? We don’t need more organizations. We need more cooperation between existing organizations! That’s difficult since most nonprofits operate like small kingdoms receiving tributes from thankful subjects.
I have attempted to persuade existing child abuse groups to address the subject of clergy or religious abuse. That went over like a lead balloon back in 2006! Most of these organizations, in my view, did not want to look like they were criticizing religions. Other groups, like SNAP, began cropping up to address Catholic abuse and began creating ‘chapters’ like SNAP-BAPTIST to cover other denominations. In time, their influence began to wane as other victims, not feeling like they were being heard, began forming their own groups.
The zenith, for me, was at a convention where I witnessed a SNAP representative pleading that victims not forget those who came before them. Another blogger, not at the convention, complained she was becoming obsolete in the wake of other Facebook groups.
Today, it’s a dog eat dog world if you’re a professional victim. And yet, I’m still not sure what a professional victim is except it’s something you don’t want to become.
So what are the marks of a professional victim?
Is it a person who attempts to make a living out of their victimhood or victimhood of others?
Someone who has absolutely no other sense of self-worth except reveling in victimhood?
Someone so fearful and threatened by other groups or other people addressing the same subject that they invoke territoriality? This manifests itself in blocking those with different viewpoints and opinions on Facebook and webpages.
I’m changing tactics at Christian School Confidential. While others want to focus on the first abusers, I think it’s more valuable to contemplate the question: how do victims become the victimizers? Every abuser starts out as abused before something clicks and they carry out their abuse on others.
A few might be critical of this new path saying I should concentrate on the first abusers. However, as I see more and more ‘advocates’ utilizing the same techniques as those who cover up the deeds of the first abusers, it’s only a matter of time before a major scandal hits and reveals that so-called survivors are just as guilty of covering up the dirt as those fundamentalists they have accused.
If and when that happens, survivor culture might be given a black eye for their own hypocrisy. I say ‘might’ since transparency helps safeguard against such assaults. Thankfully, each new scandal brings a fresh crop of people who can learn from the mistakes of the past. For that reason, in the weeks to come, I will begin a series exploring the history of those who escaped religious abuse and analyze their methods of confronting such abuse. What worked? What did not?
In the meantime, what is a professional victim?
I’ve given my thoughts on the subject.
Anyone else care to comment?