Affected to Thriving (reimagining victim/survivor)

20 Jan

A while back @chiefelk tweeted that we need to reexamine victim/survivor discourse. The idea struck a chord with me. In a society that values, success, heroism, violence, and a generally saccharine, highly disturbing form of optimism; no-one wants to be labelled a victim. We rush to proclaim ourselves survivors.

How often have you heard the statement “I am not a victim, I am a survivor”

The victimizer and their ever so polished allies, rush to silence the victim and say things like ‘victim card’, ‘stop the pity party’, ‘race card, race card’, ‘stop the excuses’, ‘chill bro, just joking’ and launch many other genuinely heartfelt missiles.

If the victim responds in anger or in emotion, this is taken as a sign of irrationality and as validation of victimizer’s position. And thus the dance of domination continues merrily on.

The intended unstated goal is to silence the victim by shaming them for being hurt. Shame and guilt are powerful paralysing emotions.

“I am not a victim, I am a  survivor” contains an implicit judgement of those who for whatever reason, have not been able to recover.  It plays to the liberal ideology of the individual and neatly masks the social forces at play.

The victims, who struggle or who speak out are constantly shamed by pointing at the survivors. For a glimpse of how this works, look  at #notyourinspiration or inspiration porn. Another example of the tragedy of inspiration porn, is the saga of the Oscar Pistorius.

There are many examples,

– hiding systemic racism “Mandela forgave, why can’t you”, “we are post-racial, we have a Black President (Obama);

-hiding patriarchy “Why was she drunk at the party, she was asking for it”, etc., etc.

This is overwhelmingly saddening

  1. The mind is not a machine, using the survivor metaphor is a sophisticated form of “get over it”
  2. A survivor remains defined by the event. Just surviving does not mean, one is whole again

Agency is often cited as the way forward. Agency, however, is not freedom. Agency is room to manoeuvre within the invisible restrictions that society continues to impose. So, even the capacity to recover is mediated by social structures.

The idea is to move from victim/survivor


Affected > hurting > healing > thriving.

I hope to expand on that in a future blog.


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