The V word is Victim. I wasn’t really expecting to write about Survivors and Victims but a post was put up over at Feministing and it made me think. I often use them a bit interchangeably for myself, but I shy away from the word Victim. I was always told to be a victim let the attacker, abuser, or generally bad person win. You have to survive. You have to be more than they tore you down as. You must be better.
Victim, it is a nasty word, but only because we are told that. I have, in some of my writings the term Victim/Survivor. I tried once creating a new word but none stuck. Victim. When I wear that name tag my heart is open, bleeding with agony. I feel my tears pouring over my flesh, I feel the pain of the beatings freshly, I feel the open wounds in my body, and I feel the grinding finality of impending death that never quite comes. That is why I cannot be a victim. If I am just a victim, I cannot stop suffocating.
When I wear the name survivor I sit up straighter, my eyes dry out and grow cold. I am a hawk, I am a warrior. I am armed to the teeth and have armor with few chinks. I am the great defender of Victims everywhere. I wear Survivor when I advocate. Survivor is strong. It is not a false strength. It is the tempering that comes from fire. I am not steel, I am a +10 Anti Bad guy Blade of Honor. I am the magical weapon that can win the battle. I am everything I need.
So what comes then from the dual title? I think that is when I am merely myself. I am not having to fight so hard that I cannot acknowledge that pulsating vulnerability, but I am not so bleeding out emotionally. My emotions are not overriding logic. I am just me. Survivor/Victim. Victim/Survivor. It is the best title, for it is the title I wear when balanced.
At times I question my right to either title. What right do I have to be a victim when someone else is hurting worse? When someone else has had more pain? That is when I remind myself that my pain is valid. I have been through enough that I shouldn’t have to ask myself that yet, I think every Victim/Survivor does. It is a part of the human mind set, or it is something we are taught that we must never be either. Survivor is better, it is the socially acceptable title but it is the hardest one to live with. Being a survivor often means rejecting your history. That is not my term for it, but that is the terms of the agreement that society has shown me. I never signed that contract. I did not enlist to be abused. I didn’t say, “Hey why don’tcha rape me today?” I didn’t ask for it.
Survivor is often a term used to excuse the victim blaming in the media. It is a term lobbed at people who aren’t finished surviving. Did you know I survived my disability? I am not a victim of my disability but I am not done with it yet. I will never survive my disabilities. They will be with me until I die. Neither title fits then. Both are misused. With the Rhianna/Chris Brown thing I have heard and read that she is a survivor. Why are we labeling her a label that she has to give herself?
I really doubt this woman is ready to be a survivor. She is still fighting, she is still being a victim. Being a victim doesn’t end the moment the abuse/rape/tragedy does. It ends only when you begin to heal and only if you choose to stop wearing the label. It only ends when you are ready. No one can tell you to stop being a victim and start being a survivor. No one can tell you that one word is worth more than the other. No one can tell you what you believe about them. You are the only one who can choose. That is why I will always be a victim. That is why I will always be a survivor.
My mother used to warn her daughters about playing the victim. If we complained too much about my older brother hitting us or pinching and poking, we were playing the Victim. The word became forbidden. She didn’t mean to wound us. She did however leave a wound. It became something that was wrong, it was wrong to acknowledge abuse. That was the last thing she intended yet, that was what my brain did with it. It wasn’t okay to say no to a man with whatever he wanted. I had to just take the abuse. I had to say I was a survivor but I wasn’t.
It also destroyed the potential relationship I wanted with my brother. I wanted to be like the kids on TV, the Brady Bunch kids or the Full House girls. I wanted to fight but always get along while fighting. We don’t get along. We can’t be in the same room with one another. Something happens when we do, and it isn’t pleasant. He sees me and doesn’t understand that I really do hurt. It isn’t something he understands. I have always ‘played the victim’ in his mind therefore it validated his behavior. It validated his right, in his mind, to poke me in my spinal injury. It validated his poor jokes. It validated his right to bash me for gaining weight.
Rights he doesn’t really have. The Victim Word is often used as a validation for why the abuse happened. Victims just as for it right? Being a victim is hard. It is harder than being a survivor in the reality that the pain is active in those moments. Neither title should be wanted. I do not think any person wants to be a victim. I cannot heal with my brother until he is ready to see beyond what we were taught about victims. I cannot heal with him until I am ready to risk him being unable to do so. I am still a little girl in parts of my head and heart. I am still hearing my mother snarl, “Stop playing the victim.”
I pick up my sword then, don my armor and try to not cry. I cannot cry most of the time either as victim or survivor. I only cry when I can wear them both. I only cry when I can wear the title of One who Lives. It is longer, it is also the simple act of living and existing that gives it to me. If you are either a Victim or a Survivor this article isn’t meant to bash you, it isn’t meant to bash anyone at all. It is my answer to Victim or Survivor.
I am both.