There Are No Victims Here

Most of us are familiar with the idiom ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ and most of us will agree it is untrue.  Words hurt. Words can be turned into weapons that pierce hearts, crush dreams and break spirits.  I have always been particularly sensitive to how we use words and what compels us to choose one word over another.

If you watch the news or keep up with events online or in print, you will have read or heard a phrase like this a thousand times over  ‘he/she was victim of a heinous crime’ and description of said crime.  The truth is most of us (if not all of us) have been ‘victims’ of something less-than-desirable through no fault of our own.  We have been victims of neglect, absence, abuse, unfairness, misfortune and crime and not because we ‘deserved’ to be victimized but because things happen all the time to the best (and worst) of us.  That’s life.

I am one of those people who crave the ‘after story’.  I want to know more about said ‘victim’ of wolverine attack, avalanche, burglary, rape, molestation etc.  I want to know if you saw the road ahead fork in two.  I want to know if you believe in second and third chances.  I want to know if you still get up in the morning to shower, brush your teeth and get on with creating your life.  I want to know if you hope again, love again and dream again.  I want to be inspired and am inspired by people who refuse to be labelled or prescribed to.  I am inspired by people who will not be defined by an experience or a poor word but fear for those who continue to play the victim card.

Words can also heal.  They have resurrective properties. Someone who has overcome; someone who has fought back; someone who has clawed their way back out and up and resisted is a survivor.  I wish more journalists would adopt the word ‘survivor’ and drop the word ‘victim’ when reading the news. I wish more of us realized this world is populated by survivors. Victims are dead.

What word do you find pejorative or inadequate and wish would be dropped from the lexicon?

20 thoughts on “There Are No Victims Here

  1. This post strikes a chord deep within me Yolanda. I agree with everything you say – I always want the after story – and the before story too. Sometimes everyone except you can see the big truck coming straight at you, at speed …………. I have one exception – I don’t like the word ‘survivor’. I’m not sure why, except I have often come across it worn proudly by women who believe they are owed something because of what happened to them. Not all are like that – but enough to make me concerned about the word and the way it is used. Personally, for myself and I worked with this concept with my women [when I worked as a counsellor and life guide for disadvantaged [abused] women] I like the term ‘overcame’. I overcame, I took responsibility for my life and I forgave. For me that holds so much more life and hope and strength and courage than simply ‘surviving’.

    So, along with ‘victim’ which is really used way too much and not always accurately, I would also like to see more emphasis on healing, recovering, taking responsibility for ones life from today on and maybe this includes yesterday too – letting go and overcoming.

    • I’m with you Pauline on the word ‘survivor’ ; the word I most prefer is ‘thriver’ but it hasn’t hit the newsrooms yet 🙂 Yes, I love the term ‘overcame’. Thank you for sharing your experiences and adding to this conversation on hope and recovery, Pauline ❤

  2. Yolanda I was only wondering about a survivor I heard about from the news and I was thinking…how does someone come back from such trauma? Then I thought about all the hards stuff I have lived through and the answer is simple, we just do. Some of us do better than others. Great thought provoking post.

    • Thank you 🙂 Yes Kath, the fact that some of us do overcome, heal, forgive and move on should encourage those who doubt their own strength and abilities to try harder. It’s important -vital – to share experiences and to keep channels open. Have a great week 🙂

    • ‘He bloomed where he was planted’ – yes I remember that great post of yours Nancy 🙂 Sadly many people think they need the ‘right conditions’ to bloom ignoring the fact that very few of us, if any, are planted in a perfect environment. Does such a thing as a ‘perfect environment’ exist??

    • Thanks Andrea 🙂 Our local news is quite good at revisiting ‘stories’ and we get to ‘visit’ with locals who survived some or other event. Very inspiring and insightful and I wish media everywhere would cover more of these stories.

  3. I guess it’s the difference between negative and positive. If news stories dwelt more on the positives, papers wouldn’t sell so well. It’s a sad fact that disaster sells newspapers – people like to read about the suffering of others – a bit like those rubberneckers who delight in checking out a car crash on the opposite carriageway. There’s a word to get rid of – suffering. As long as the reason for it could be erased everywhere too.

    • I agree Jenny bad news sells but I do believe there has been a subtle but very real ‘collective shift’. For example, in our part of the world our local news channel shares a lot of positive news. My concern is that we – collectively – stop labelling others as victims and start celebrating our victories – great or small. And yes, what’s up with those vultures gathering at crash sites?

  4. Like you, I always want to know the story after, Yolanda. The stories of survivors in the media are few and far between.
    I think being a survivor requires strength and courage. It’s easy to remain a victim and blame your past on the reasons why you can’t move forward. I choose to press on and prefer being around people with the same mindset.

    • We all know someone who is ‘stuck’ unable to move on from their past and it can get really frustrating. My mom is someone who struggles with living in the present; often blaming events and people from her past for her own insecurities. I am aware she works hard at trying to change her mindset. I appreciate the fact that she tries. Many people don’t even bother – preferring to wallow. Very sad.

  5. I drive myself nuts wondering what happens afterwards! I just said the other day that i can’t believe journalists never go and get us the rest of the story! So annoying! Thank you for mentioning that. And, yes, re word victim!!!

  6. I enjoyed this post and am sorry I am behind in my reading. I understand why some people close their comments, annoying to have to go back and read ones which are way too late to bother… smiles! I know you will check out my comment…
    Anyway, I like the word, “survivor,” especially in the case of cancer and other diseases. To me, this is a positive. I see the t-shirt and say, “Yippee! someone was able to ‘beat the odds!” I saw this reflected in Jill’s comments.
    As far as news stories, I am always grateful if a newscaster or a blogger fills me in on how things came out after the news story was shown or written in the newspaper. I wonder all the time about different groups or situations. Sometimes, the internet will lead you to a wild goose chase, but sometimes I have found answers through the system, too. Wonderful dialogue between the commenters, here. You inspired great responses! I can say one thing that annoys me is when small news stories get blown up and actual big news stories are not mentioned in enough detail.

    • Thank you for reminding me of the many incredible cancer survivors Robin. I think those of us who like ‘follow up’ stories are people who don’t like ‘unfinished business’ . I know I don’t like being left hanging, wondering ‘what happened next?’

  7. Oh Yolanda, another wonderfully thought provoking post. You are so right, I can’t bear how so many stories in the news these days do mention the word ‘victim’. Over here we have a constant barrage of news about sexual abuse, stemming from the 70s and a certain once famous TV pesonality called Jimmy Saville. Not sure if you’ve heard of him or not. He died a ‘hero’ but since then the scale of his appalling and vile abuse of children has flooded the airwaves and caused a massive round-up of numerous celebrities being arrested and done for similar, including Rolf Harris and Gary Glitter. No surprise there. But what seems to be overlooked is the girls/women behind the stories. The question is always asked: ‘Why did these women wait so long to tell their story?’ as if somehow what they are saying isn’t true. If the people asking the question understood the sheer hell of what it is like to suffer at the hands of an abuser as child and then try to carry on and live their lives always carrying the mental pain, shame and disgust within, they wouldn’t ask that question. They would say instead how very brave of those women to come forward and tell their stories even in light of the very deep shame…because somehow they still think they were to blame in some twisted way. Such is the crime of peadophiles. So I would say it’s more a sentence than a word that really gets me. I hope this isn’t too strong Yolanda…but I know you as someone who stands up for what is right and true and honest and this is the response your post drew out of me. You see…you are a powerful writer my friend, thank you giving me this opportunity to share my heart with you in this way ❤

    • Thank you for adding your voice and wisdom to this post Sherri ❤ Shame is a powerful emotion that keeps us down and beaten and erodes courage. I wonder (often) why it is easier to pass judgment than it is to offer compassion (or a kind ear or a shoulder). Are we designed this way? I know from my own issues with anxiety that what I needed was space and time. I had to find my way back to myself in a circuitous way (all in all the process took over 2 years). Healing happens in different ways for everyone and usually over a certain length of time – like grief you can't put a 'number' to how long you should expect to feel like the world caved in around you. Your higher and best 'self' knows when the time to speak up has arrived.

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