If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet (Shakespeare) does it matter if we use the label “victim” or “survivor? For those who have not experienced trauma the difference may seem like semantics, but really it isn’t. Victim evokes pity and survivor evokes empathy, and perhaps respect. Therefore, if you have experienced trauma, which label would you want applied to you?
I do use both terms…I might talk about “Hitler‘s victims”, because “Hitler’s survivors” wouldn’t make sense. Besides saying “Hitler’s victims” seems to better illustrate my disgust for him. On the other hand, I would also say survivors of the Holocaust, or Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom are two Holocaust survivors I really admire. In that sense, I would feel as if I were insulting them to call them victims.
Changing the Narrative applies to all survivors of trauma.
I have been pondering lately, on how people might perceive me and my sharing of my story. Do they, I wondered, see me with pity as a victim? I hope not, that is certainly not my intent! I share because:
- I lived with silence most of my life, but no more
- I want to help other survivors know they are not alone
- to give other survivors courage to hold on for one more day if that is what they need
- to try to lessen the shame of being a survivor of abuse, particularly sexual abuse
- to lessen the shame of being in therapy…for years
- to lessen the shame of mental “illness” such as PTSD, and DID
Make no mistake, I am not a victim…I am a survivor.
Photo attribution Library of Congress courtesy of Flickr Commons