Labeling Victims Of Abuse As Survivors Can Be A Mistake

Many people, even those who have survived narcissistic abuse, look down on anyone who uses the term “victim.”  It seems to offend some people who survived narcissistic abuse to be referred to as a victim, because they prefer to be called a survivor.  Others who haven’t survived narcissistic abuse but still find the term victim offensive seem to look down on anyone who considers herself or himself to be a victim.  They obviously associate the term victim with someone who is weak &/or foolish, as if only weak & foolish people can be abused.  They also seem to think victims are those who wallow in the pain of their trauma, & never move on.  They have PTSD or C-PTSD because they won’t just stop thinking about the trauma.  If they’d just stop thinking about it, they’d be fine!

Whatever the motive, many times victims are pushed & even shamed into referring to themselves as survivors & never victims.  This can be a problem for victims!

There is absolutely no shame in falling prey to an abusive person.  Narcissists are notorious for being phenomenal actors.  They can fool anyone no matter how smart or even how much a person may know about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  The more you know, naturally the quicker you can catch onto their behavior, but even so, there is a chance you can be fooled briefly.  I have been & I’ve been studying narcissism since 2011!  Anyway there is truly no shame in being abused.  The only shame in any abusive relationship belongs to the abusive person, never their victim.

Also, putting the survivor label on people can make them feel pressured to heal quickly or even get over the abuse entirely (which is unlikely).  Rushing healing never works out well.  Healing has to be done at its own pace & that pace varies greatly from person to person.  Not to mention, most of the time, it’s a life long process.  Very few people completely “get over” abuse, especially when there is a history of it such as growing up with abusive parents then dating or marrying abusive partners.

I think a lot of times people put the survivor label on victims to make themselves more comfortable.  Maybe it makes them feel that since the person survived, the abuse wasn’t that bad.  If it was someone they knew, this can help them feel better about themselves if they did nothing to help the victim.  Or, maybe it is spoken out of simple ignorance.  They intend to be empowering & comforting yet are unsure how to do it. 

As for those who have been abused, I really believe it should be each person’s preference which label they use, so long as each person accepts the fact that they were victims of an abuser & have no shame for that.  Removing yourself from the abuse by calling yourself a survivor can be empowering to some people, & that is wonderful.  Whatever helps is a good thing! 

For myself, I stick with using the term victim.  I don’t want to sound like I’m looking for pity or attention, because truly that’s not the case.  Instead, by using that term, I’m reminding myself that what happened to me wasn’t my fault.  I was innocent & did nothing to deserve the abuse.  This helps me because my abusers blamed me for their bad behavior.  Even years after, I have moments of slipping back into wondering what I did wrong to make them treat me the way they did.  Thankfully, those moments don’t last long, but they do happen.  Referring to myself as a victim is a little reminder every time I say or write it that what they did to me was their fault, not mine.

However you choose to refer to yourself is up to you.  But please, whether you prefer the term victim or survivor, let it be your choice.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into referring to yourself in a way that you don’t feel comfortable with.


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

16 responses to “Labeling Victims Of Abuse As Survivors Can Be A Mistake

  1. ‘Very few people completely “get over” abuse, especially when there is a history of it such as growing up with abusive parents then dating or marrying abusive partners.’ — I can attest to the truth in that statement.

    I consider myself both a victim and a survivor. But it took several decades of healing, before I could call myself a survivor. And yes, I was shamed for being ‘weak,’ ‘malingering,’ and for ‘feeling sorry for myself.’ All those hateful judgments only made my traumatic injuries worse.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This post resonated with me. The term survivor bothers me. I think people like to use it because then they think they can put the matter away. I am reminded of how I cringe when I see things about cancer “survivors”. Often the cancer is just in remission and rears it’s ugly head later on and the “survivor” doesn’t “survive”. Recovery from narcissistic abuse is ongoing process. At best it’s like a chronic condition that can be managed and lived with. Like diabetes I suppose. I’m not sure what the proper terminology would be here. Do we use the terms victims and survivors when discussing diabetics?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That makes sense. Part of that toxic positivity thing, I think. If you can put away the abuse, you’re healed & can live happily ever after. (if only it was really so easy!)

      So true about cancer survivors!

      Exactly.. it is a chronic condition & can be managed. Healing from it entirely though is pretty much impossible in one lifetime, I think.

      Not sure about diabetes.. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term victim or survivor used in connection with it. Closest I’ve heard is with diabetic cats, it can go into remission.


      • Toxic positivity. I have not heard that phrase. I must look into it! My cousin, who I loved, had breast cancer she thought she had “survived”. Years later cancer returned in her brain – it had “moved”. Sadly, she embraced with the brain cancer she embraced “positivity”. She decided she no longer wanted to look at the past, and she didn’t want anyone around her that wouldn’t also only talk about positive things. I honestly think this contributed to her demise. There has to be a balance.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I read that phrase some time back & wow, does it make sense! Toxic positivity is taking being positive way too far.. no negativity allowed, “think happy thoughts”. “positive vibes only”, that sort of nonsense.

          I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that positivity contributed to your cousin’s demise, sadly. Being too out of balance is so unhealthy! I read once that most people who commit suicide are optimists, not pessimists. Reason being is they’re constantly disappointed. Makes sense to me!

          A very dear friend of mine had cancer either 4 or 5 times before she died from cancer when it went to her brain. I’ve never seen anyone handle it so well! She accepted her diagnosis & still maintained a close relationship with God. She knew He would help her whenever her time came, whether it was in the 3-4 months the doctors gave her at her final prognosis or if it came earlier or later. It came much earlier, about a month & a half. Right up until her last couple of days, she sent these beautiful emails.. her heart was so full of gratitude in spite of all he bad stuff she’d experienced in her life, & she experienced PLENTY. Not that she denied any of it- she was grateful God got her through all of them & she knew He was carrying her through this last trial. So inspiring! I miss her so much. She truly was an inspiration!

          Liked by 1 person

        • ibikenyc

          So sorry about your cousin, dougrross.

          Liked by 2 people

    • ibikenyc

      Your diabetes analogy is spot-on!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. ibikenyc

    I think if the affected individual really does feel like a survivor, that’s wonderful, and they have every right and reason to describe themselves thusly.
    The forced / rah-rah feeling around this terminology has always bothered me, though, and I could never put why into words. Thank you for expressing it so eloquently! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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