Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Power of Words: Victim, Survivor and Beyond

The Power of Words: Victim, Survivor and Beyond
© (2009) by Vicki Polin

I hate when people call those who have been sexually victimized, "Victims".

Those of us who have been able to live through any form of a sexual assault (sexual abuse, sexual harassment, clergy sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, rape, etc.) and are not actively trying to kill ourselves, or numbing our pain by using drugs or other avenues to get through the day, or recreating our experiences -- should be considered and called "SURVIVORS".

The only true victims of sex crimes are those who were murdered during the criminal act, those who have committed suicide, are actively doing things to numb themselves out, and/or committing acts that harm themselves or others.

When a person who was sexually victimized is called or thought of as a victim -- they are more likely to walk around looking and acting like a victim -- with their heads held down, thinking they cannot accomplish much, and often thinking of themselves as second-class citizens. Yet, when the victimized individual is called a SURVIVOR they are more likely to hold their head up high and walk with an air of power, as they have regained their personal power.  If one can SURVIVE a sex crime, they CAN and WILL survive anything.

But then what?  I personally believe that once a survivor reaches a particular point in healing -- they can and will move past the point of being just a survivor.  It is at that particular point that a survivor of a sex crime becomes a veteran.  Not all survivors need to reach this point, yet there is a small group of us that have not only battled our own internal struggles in the recovery process, yet have moved on to battle the politics and societal misconceptions about those who offend and also the stereotypes of those who have been sexually victimized.

Veterans of sex crimes are a group of survivors who want to transform their experiences of being victimized into something positive.  True veterans have gone through great pains to heal and grow and are using their knowledge and life experiences to advocate and fight for the rights of those who have more recently been victimized.  Veterans are also doing what they can to prevent another innocent person (adult or child) from becoming the next victim of a sex crime.

Veterans of sexual violence are warriors in an ugly battle who fight against those who feel it's their right to sexually offend others and those who cover up these crimes.  Believe me, it's a very ugly ongoing battle -- a battle in which someone who is considered a "victim" would not be able to perform.

 The Awareness Center believes Jewish survivors of sexual violence should be given yellow ribbons to wear proudly.

Survivors of sexual violence (as adults and/or as a child) are just as deserving of a yellow ribbon as the men and women of our armed forces, who have been held captive as hostages or prisoners of war.  Survivors of sexual violence have been forced to learn how to survive, being held captive not by foreigners, but mostly by their own family members, teachers, camp counselors, coaches babysitters, rabbis, cantors or other trusted authority figures.  For these reasons ALL survivors of sexual violence should be seen as heroes!

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