Audre Lorde

To “I Am Not a Victim”

I Am Not a Victim

I see that phrase at least three times during an average session online.

I Am Not a Victim

There is what the word means and what it implies.

Various free online dictionaries define the word victim as an unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance: a person who has suffered the effects of violence or illness or bad luck: an accident victim She’s just a victim of circumstances beyond her control.

Google Search Results

unfortunate victim

I decided to search Project Gutenberg and found a Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary


Vic”tim, n. Etym: [L. victima: cf. F. victime.]

1. A living being sacrificed to some deity, or in the performance of a religious rite; a creature immolated, or made an offering of. Led like a victim, to my death I’ll go. Dryden.

2. A person or thing destroyed or sacrificed in the pursuit of an object, or in gratification of a passion; as, a victim to jealousy, lust, or ambition.

3. A person or living creature destroyed by, or suffering grievous injury from, another, from fortune or from accident; as, the victim of a defaulter; the victim of a railroad accident.

Someone who is not a victim lives in a world in which he or she will not be or is yet to be sacrificed to a theology or dogma, victimized by jealousy and ambition or suffer a grievous injury from another.

Being “not” a victim is a great thing.

It means all of your limbs are intact and you have full mobility.

It means you’ve never experienced discrimination, rejection from your parents, or sent to prison when what you need is a hospital.

It means as a child you were loved, accepted, and well nourished.

You have never been raped.

You have never been brutally beaten for no clear reason.

You were not locked in a room with a puppy and forced to watch it die of starvation.

You were not starved by parents who don’t care if you live or die.

You are not suffering from a psychiatric condition that impairs critical functions of your brain while people blame you for the rotten choices you wouldn’t make if you had treatment.

You are not strapped to the altar of sacrifice to the dogma of free market capitalism.

That’s a great thing.

My problem is not with your status as  “not a victim”.

It’s more the tone of voice I think I hear; the implication that somehow people whose history meets the definition of the word “victim” are to blame for what happened.

Perhaps the degraded status of the word is related to its misappropriation by people who aren’t really victims.

Perhaps the negative value of the word “victim” is part of the overall defamation of the language of compassion: “Bleeding hearts” on the hunt for ‘loser victims” who blame everyone else for their problems.

The word loser is not in any definition of the word “victim” that I’ve managed to find.

As someone on the receiving end of economic policies that are designed to destroy my life, I have nothing to gain from silence.

My advocacy for social justice is very selfish indeed.

Here’s a pop quiz:

Scenario 1.

You are nine months old and your Mother has an un-diagnosed case of postpartum psychosis.

Everyone else in the family knows that something is wrong with her but they won’t admit they see it.

She burns you with a hot iron on your back three times before you are two years old.

You have no memory of it; but at the age of forty, you have the sudden onset of excruciating episodes when your skin feels like it’s on fire.

The episodes are unpredictable and happen night or day.

You go to doctors; they find nothing wrong, one sends you to a psychiatrist who sends you to a CBT therapist but you don’t have a behavioral problem.

You don’t know why you have the pain, but your functioning is so compromised you can’t work.

Your life is now one of poorly managed pain. The psychotherapy that may help you to resolve this problem is not an option.

You are trying to get well in a system that won’t give you what you need and there are no alternatives.

And instead of accepting responsibility for their failures your care providers accuse you of malingering.

What are you?

Scenario 2:

You are three years old.

You have an uncle who comes to visit twice a year and stays for a week each time.  At night he sneaks into your room and fondles you, he sometimes makes you do things to him. He says if you tell on him no one will believe you and you will go to jail because what you’re doing to him is a crime.

You put it all out of your mind but years later, you find that you go numb during sex.

Not only do you go numb but also you sometimes “switch” and become someone else, someone who violently shoves your partner away.

You partner thinks you don’t love him but the opposite is true, the more passionate you feel the less able you are to have sex.

You feel like a failure, and the person you love is about to walk out on you.

What word best describes your status as a result of the rapes in your childhood and their impact on your life.

If you were raped as a child, you are burdened by a cruel violation of your body and trust. You were raped physically, psychologically and emotionally.

I pray that no one who reads this blog is ever forced to suffer the cruelty of violent ignorance.

But if you are ever assaulted by people who hate you because they’ve been told to hate you by violent demagogues the only way you can recover is by knowing that you are the victim.

Recognizing when you are a victim is the first step toward  healing.

Rob Goldstein 2015-2018





16 thoughts on “To “I Am Not a Victim”

  1. I can see your point. There is judgment in declaring, “I am not a victim.” You are dead on. How could I never have seen this before?


  2. I don’t know why these words should stir up controversy.

    They are words and they have meanings that function independently of our subjective needs and impressions.

    A victim is someone who either has been deceived into behaving self destructively or has been physically harmed in such a way that it compromises his or her ability to function.

    A woman who was brutally raped and whose reproductive organs were damaged to the extent that she can no longer have a child is a victim…where’s the controversy?

    If she recovers and wants children and is happy to use adoption; then she has found some happiness and is a survivor…

    It doesn’t mean she wasn’t victimized. A survivor is a victim who didn’t physically die.

    A survivor is someone who was victimized and has psychologically recovered to the extent that one can.

    One never returns to the status of never having been victimized.

    The question for me is not whether there are victims and survivors…

    The question for me is why so many people in the U.S. are so heavily invested in denying the fact of victimization…and who seek to muddy the discussion with hyperbolic controversy.

    The controversy for me is how we can even discuss the legitimacy of the word “victim” when we have a massive population of sick people living on our nation’s streets.

    No victims?

    To contend that they don’t exist is to participate in the crime from which they suffer.

    To contend that every “adverse circumstance” can be banished from one’s history by focusing on the “positive” as an act of denial intellectually and morally lazy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know that words and thoughts have the potential to stir up controversy; but some controversy is really just a distraction designed to create the impression of concern or action.

      We’ve known for over forty years that community mental health and the closure of the State Hospitals were both failures and mistakes and yet very ill people are still sent daily to live and die on our streets? Why? What’s the controversy? Are they there because they haven’t learned to think the right thoughts?

      Are they there because they think going hungry is what they deserve?

      Or are they there because a morally corrupt elite has decided to make them the new scarecrows designed to frighten people into staying at a minimum wage jobs.

      Sometimes the lie is the controversy and the truth is as simple as “we don’t change what’s wrong because we’re lazy and stupid and cruel.”

      A good example of this kind of thinking was offered by Ayn Rand Paul,

      When he was asked what he would do about all of the people who would lose medical care if the SCOTUS decided against the ACA exchanges he replied”

      “We could try liberty.”

      And I thought, liberty from what? Your responsibilities as an adult?

      Childhood ends. And with it the idea of the self as the center of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      I don’t think that one needs to have been victimized to understand that we don’t have control over every last aspect of our lives…or that life is rife with injustice. Just ask someone on death row for a crime he didn’t commit.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I was never comfortable with the whole “I am not a victim, I am a survivor” thing. Because to be a survivor one must first be a victim. I always felt it was like a snub. What about those who are in the healing process, or those who will always be in it? They are still suffering in one or many ways. To admit to being currently or forever affected by your circumstances/perpetrator makes you less of a survivor? It is as if one must disown their previous suffering, or their entire healing journey, to claim “survivor”. As if you must distance yourself from those who need your support the most, denying them the comfort of being able to identify with you. I identify with the victims. The ones who are on the same journey as I am, no matter what stage they might be at. I want to support them. I do not want to turn around and tell them I am different from them, somehow apart. We are all in this together.
    I am not so good at expressing the abstract. I hope you get the gist of it. Thank you for putting this out there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading my post and leaving a comment.

      I really am pleased for people who have not been victimized.

      The problem is, that until science comes up with a way to completely halt aging and death we are all destined to become the victims of our own bodies.

      We will all weaken and die. If we wanted to retaining that simple insight and the compassion if affords could make the process so much less frightening and painful.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Rob, you’ve really touched me with this. There’s this whole thing now, this negative valence attached to the word “victim,” preferring “survivor” because it maybe suggests that we have triumphed over our traumas, not let them win…but. I am still alive, which means I have survived, in the same way a triple amputee has survived stepping on a land mine or two or three. Is survival always a victory? I think not.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There is more to life than surviving. I had an interesting conversation with someone who remarked that “victims” must stop being ‘victims”…which I understand from the standpoint of having mastery over one’s intellect and emotions.

      I honestly believe that much of today’s discourse is influenced by a form of toxic and reactionary politically correct speech that disparages emotional vulnerability as a form of weakness and a refusal
      to be held accountable.

      Survival is a victory if survivors have access to quality treatment providers who are committed to helping them to learn to thrive.

      You cannot stop being a victim until you accept that you are…and you can never change the fact that you were. This should be a source of strength and compassion from which everyone in our culture can benefit.

      There is more to life than mere survival.
      And my overall take is that right now our media work in the service of abusers.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. What else is new? I realize that I’m in peril of missing the next major disaster, but nevertheless I find media to be an ongoing disaster, so I don’t look at news, television, or listen to commercial radio. It’s just too upsetting. So I live in my bubble, as far away from “civilization” as possible, speak to almost nobody except my excellent psychologist, and thus I survive. Oh, and my dog. I consider my dog to be part of me, and since he seems to think so too, it works out well for both of us.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think isolation is easy for survivors because — well…once you’ve seen evil it’s really hard to tolerate people who desperately want to believe that it doesn’t exist. We survivors not only had to stare down evil we had to survive the idiots who want to pretend that they don’t know what they are looking at, we have to survive the evil of the narcissist as well as the evil of all of his enablers…

        Getting to the point of just being able to relax is a huge accomplishment.

        Liked by 1 person

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