I am not sure about you but I have always struggled with the labels victim and survivor of sexual abuse. There are so many connotations attached to these words and they feel so limiting. And I wouldn’t have delved into this question but every time I want to refer to “us” in my blogs, I have to say “adults who have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood” – a very long winded sentence indeed. So this blog is an exploration into the terms that are more empowering.
The dictionary definition of the terms victim and survivor may be very well appropriate for adults who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or a similar trauma but the connotation attached to these words makes them so much more explosive.
When someone’s control of their lives/experiences is taken away, we call them victims.
When one is having a difficult time in their lives like in third world countries, you would most likely say that they are in survival mode. We don’t tend to use these terms for people living in the first-world because they are not surviving; in terms of basic needs they are thriving (unless of course they have experienced a traumatic event and then they become survivors).
Do we ever see Oprah as a victim or a survivor? No, we see her as a successful and brilliant woman who, despite her experiences, has chosen not to be limited by them.
To me personally, these terms represent a closing; a lack of possibility; a label that limits me and I hate that. I hate to call myself a victim or survivor of sexual abuse; these experiences have influenced who I am but so has the rest of my life. why separate these experiences? and why use them to label myself?
How do you feel about being called a victim or survivor?
Have you ever tried to find a better terminology? One that is enabling rather than limiting, one that doesn’t put us in a box.
I have been having a peek at the dictionary to look for terms that are more appropriate. Terms that are based on the experience (what happened) rather than a judgment on the person (who they are or we are). And I must say that I am finding English to be a very limiting language.
Here are the terms that I have come up with and to be honest, none of them hit the mark but I would love to know what you think and give me ideas:
Invader and invaded – because our trust was invaded and violated as children
Intruder and intruded – because someone intruded into our private space
Offender and offended – an offence was committed
Abuser and abused – the abuse occurred.
All these terms focus on the action/verb rather than judgement of the people involved but if I start saying them, no one would know what or who I am talking about – so there is the dilemma!!
This blog feels unfinished because I feel that I am limited by the connotations of our society. Maybe abuser and abused are the most appropriate terms. I am not sure.
I would love to know what you think?
Love and blessings to you.
** Image courtesy: https://www.pexels.com/