survivor: someone who remains alive or in existence after; someone who continues living

victim: someone or something killed, destroyed, sacrificed, etc.; one who suffers some loss, especially by being swindled

I have been thinking about these words lately. The way we use them today. To define people who have been wronged in some way. Today, people are more often labelled “survivors” than “victims”. There seems to be a greater sense of dignity, or correctness, about the word survivor.

I remember, years ago, watching an Oprah segment. I can clearly recall her voicing her decision to no longer refer to women as Victims of Sexual Abuse. Instead, she would say Survivors of Sexual Abuse.

Recently, there has been some talk in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s public apology to those First Nations people who had been victimized by the past government policy of residential schools. I heard a woman refer to herself and others as Survivors of Residential Schools. Really? She and others went on to talk about the effects that this terrible experience has had on the people involved, and on their families. Substance abuse. Broken families. Lack of parenting skills. Survivors? Sound like victims to me.

So here’s my thought about it all. Anyone who has had anything bad happen to him is a victim of that bad thing. There are holocaust victims, abuse victims, theft victims, and cancer victims. It is annoying to me that this word is no longer a good word. And it is annoying to me that the word survivor has replaced it. Not all victims, I think, make the transition to survivor. Because to be a survivor, I think, a person needs to truly find a way to live after the experience. There would be a sense of getting past, moving on, living with purpose. Not just breathing.

I don’t mean to minimize or make light of anyone’s experience. Heaven knows I have never been taken to live in a prison camp, or a residential school, or been abused or abandoned. Maybe it’s semantics. I just get tired of the political Name Game that, in my opinion, works to camouflage rather than clarify.

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