Sunday, 2 April 2017

Mind your language - CONTENT WARNING

I often feel an incessant need to correct people. It's almost like a tic. It comes out of my mouth without it being processed in my brain. I don't ever intend to demean a person when making a correction- I merely aim to educate.  There are better ways to do so, this blog for example, but I literally cannot stop myself.

There is an adjustment that I would urge people to make for the sake of others (potentially even themselves)

When referring to an individual who has been raped, please refrain from using the word "victim" as it can be very damaging.

Having been through such traumas at a rather young age and again as a young adult and more recently, I have personally come to find the term "victim" demeaning and oppressive. It's pitiful and tragic. As a person in general, I am neither of these things but that word made me feel all of them and worse. Victim is so finite.

As a young adult, I considered myself a rape "victim" and couldn't process my thoughts and feelings. I felt so small and insignificant and almost as if I had a sign above my head saying "rape victim".

Once I started using the term rape "survivor", I noticed a change in how I perceived myself and it truly helped my recovery. I have never got over being raped but it hurt a lot less until the most recent incident. The term survivor is empowering. It is uplifting. It gives us control!

Because of the uncertainty as to whether or not my most recent trauma was rape or consensual sex, I am unable to move beyond the incident and now that word "victim" is back to haunt me.

This is not much to ask of people really. I know that changing every day terminology is difficult, however, if you pay close attention to people who have been through this trauma, you will see the difference in their reaction to "victim" versus "survivor". I wouldn't encourage you to "test" this theory unless you have a high level of trust from the survivor although you could exchange the trauma and interchange the word victim with survivor and notice a reaction from someone entirely removed from the situation.

Words affect us all on an unconscious level. We don't even realise it until we change these words.

Survivor implies strength. It may not be felt by the individual but it sure will help.

Please note, there are individuals who will not consider themselves a survivor for many reasons. In this instance, you can offer the term survivor in a context relevant to the moment but it is not a word you should press on an individual especially if they are not ready. When in a neutral environment discussing rape, try to make a conscious effort to use the term survivor. Point out the word "victim" in a news article and let people know why they ought to change their words too. I imagine your level of tact to be somewhat greater than my own!! Those with lived experience of this kind of trauma, or indeed any trauma, may refer to themselves as they wish. As an outsider, you do not have that right.

Words matter.

Update 18 July 2017

I have recently launched a petition to encourage the media to refrain from using the term "victim". I would be grateful for signatures and shares.

For a visual representation of the differences between "Rape Victim" and "Rape Survivor" I have taken a screen grab of the Google Images search results for each phrase. See below.

Rape Victim

Rape Survivor

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