I Am Not a VICTIM!
Not everyone will agree with what I am about to say, and I respect that.
I’d like to be patently clear about some things: Rapists are predators. Sexual abusers are predators. Domestic abusers and domestic violence offenders are predators, as are child pornographers and child abusers.
I have been prey in my past. I am nobody’s victim.
Victim implies weakness. I am not weak. I am strong. This is how I survive the heinous acts committed against me and share my stories in the hope that other women can learn from me.
Why do they call us victims anyway? Nearly everyone who falls prey to violent crimes is referred to as victims, when a more appropriate term might be prey.
Even more appropriate might simply be object. Think back to elementary language classes. Name the parts of this simple sentence: John assaulted Mary. The subject of the sentence is John. Assaulted is the predicate, while assaulted Mary is the predicate phrase with Mary being the object. Mary was the object of a criminal offense. She was an object of a crime, not the object of a criminal. This does not objectify Mary. Rather, it directly subjects John to the action he committed.
To better understand why victim is the wrong word, first we must look at the etymology of the word. It is of Latin origin, c. 1450, and meant animal killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power. Victim: sacrificial animal.
While the lexicon has certainly evolved over the centuries, what we find today is that the meaning of the word victim carries perhaps even less flattering connotations than it did in the fifteenth century. Consider a few synonyms found in a thesaurus of today: fool, patsy, sitting duck, stooge, easy mark, halfwit, scapegoat, imbecile, sacrificial lamb – to name just a few of many. How does this translate to how victims are treated? Does this help to explain victim-blaming? Of course it does! In fact, it could even be argued that the choice of the word victim to identify the object of a crime may have been strategically chosen for the explicit purpose of turning the attention from the perpetrator to the one who was harmed. I don’t actually believe that is the case, but there is a sound argument for it. Victims, after all, have a long legacy of ill-regarded connotations, as the list above clearly demonstrates.
- Any fool would know better than to dress that way in public.
- She was an easy mark running alone at night.
- Pretty girl like that hanging out in bars, she’s a sitting duck.
- What imbecile stays with a guy who hits her?
On and on these questions and assertions go. The common language we use is victim-blaming, and we accept it.
It isn’t acceptable! It also isn’t acceptable to look down on people who have been assaulted, raped, abused mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, financially or otherwise. Victim blaming encourages the denigration of the person who was harmed.
Some predators, perhaps the most vile ones, like to taunt and play with their prey before moving in for the fatal blow – not literally fatal, perhaps a rape, or sustained abuse over periods of months or years. Abusers, especially domestic abusers, often make fabricated claims to have been victims of abuse, yet they also frequently accuse their partners of “playing the victim card” if they dare to stand up for themselves. This is yet another way the terminology works against solving the issue.
Statistically, you will talk to someone this week who is either recovering from or in the midst of violent crime. If you don’t know what to say, just listen. Nobody in this situation wants sympathy. We want empathy, and we want our friends to just keep being our friends. We will have some really awful days ahead as we try to sort out what’s happened to us. Expect us to cry, rage, have some depressed time, but please don’t treat us like we’re fragile. Whatever you do, don’t turn your backs on us. We need you right now. If you turn away, you might lose us forever. We’ve already been betrayed, and we can’t take any more betrayal.
We are not victims. We are survivors! We are fighting to rebuild our sense of self, our belief and trust in others, and an equilibrium in our lives so that we can feel safe again. But fight we will! This is a battle we will win. Rally ‘round. We can’t do it alone.
If you know someone who has suffered from rape or assault of any sort, or someone who is in an abusive relationship, please reach out. She needs you! Please read the “About” page for more information, because helping a woman in an abusive relationship can be very dangerous.
Also published on Medium.