Thursday, January 20, 2011

Victim (versus) Survivor

One of my Kines professors said that she didn’t believe in “rape victims” only “rape survivors.” I have read a lot about this sentiment and I have to disagree.

When you take away the rhetoric of being a victim, you take away the possibility of there being a perpetrator, a crime committed, and something done wrong to that person. Being a survivor and being a victim, I think, are intrinsically linked. Hopefully, if you are a victim, you will survive and rise up against the wrong doing. If you are a survivor, you have to have survived from something, and that is where I feel identifying as a survivor and identifying as a victim are not mutually exclusive. Saying there are no rape victims implies that agency is stripped from all rapists, that they might as well not even be in the picture.

I was a victim, but I am a survivor. I have no shame in saying I was a victim; there is nothing wrong with admitting that.

We associate the victim identification with being weak, and being weak is a bad thing in our culture. We should learn to separate the two and realize, especially when discussing rape, that if you continue to have a negative connotation with being a victim, then you are only furthering victim-blaming and victim-shame.

The spectrum of being a victim and a survivor is something fluid and upwardly progressive, and if someone is struggling with being a victim, then we cannot look at them with shame and harsh judgment because they are “too weak to be a survivor.” Someone struggling with this needs help and support, and then they can move on to survive and help others as well.

After all, who are you to judge who is a "real victim," acting as if their identity in that term is beneath them (you, a stranger to them), and thus "should be a real survivor?" If you are so bent on people being survivors, then it would do you well to respect where they are coming from, (that they do feel like a victim and not to make them feel bad because of it), and help them.

How do you help them? First step: Stop shaming them because you don't believe that there are "rape victims."

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