[Content Note: Rape culture.]
US Weekly has a story about actress AnnaLynne McCord disclosing having been sexually assaulted during an appearance as an advocate against global slavery and human trafficking.
The very first sentence of that story? "AnnaLynne McCord is a survivor, not a victim."
(A sigh directed at US Weekly, not Ms. McCord.)
Because "victim" is such a loaded term—turned into a dirty word by people who have no patience with those who refuse to "get over it," or aren't "moving on" in what's arbitrarily deemed the "right" way or in the "right" amount of time—now every survivor of sexual violence is obliged to insist (or it will be insisted for hir) that zie is "not a victim."
And I understand wanting to distance oneself from that word, because it has come to mean someone oversensitive, someone broken, someone weak, someone who can't or won't get over it.
But rape is not a victimless crime.
It's no coincidence that it's rape apologists who have turned "victim" into a loaded term that no one wants to bear. If there are no "victims," then no one is being victimized by predators. There are only survivors of something that happened to them once upon a time.
Victim is a word rape apologists hate, because it evokes those who victimize in a way survivor does not. Victim doesn't play into narratives about how surviving rape makes women strong, turns them into superheroes even. Victim doesn't elide the powerlessness of having sexual violence done to your body.
Sexual violence is not victimless.
To call oneself a "victim," to identify as a victim, is received as an announcement of one's weakness, or a solicitation of pity. "Zie defines hirself as a victim," even other survivors will sniff derisively.
But in a time and space where we are discouraged from saying that we are victims, and in a time and space where most discussions of rape already protest and abet and graciously exclude rapists, to identify as a victim is a radical act of bravery.
Survivors have been victimized by predators.
I would not presume to tell anyone else how they should identify. I speak only for myself.
I am a victim, and I am a survivor.
Those are not mutually exclusive identities.