The Adaptation of Victim-Survivor: A Linguistic Analysis of Sexual Assault Language
By Laura Knittig and Marisa Imbroane
Language around sexual assault is a fragile topic especially for those who have experienced it first hand. The terms victim and survivor have paralleled each other to portray the same person, but both imply different connotations. The term victim can be taken with pity, lead to victim-blaming, and the victim mentality; however, the term survivor can be empowering but disregards the seriousness of the overcome trauma of a survivor. A person that experiences sexual assault may be torn between which word to use. This paper analyzes the use of both the terms victim and survivor in modern society, while looking at the positive and negative aspects of both. Discovering that neither can fully encompass a person’s position and experience of sexual assault, the word victim-survivor was found to better represent both the action that occurred in the past and the journey towards healing. The term victim-survivor highlights the trauma of being a victim and surviving the event for the person who experienced sexual assault. In this paper, the term victim-survivor will be presented as the appropriate and trauma sensitive term for those who have experienced through sexual assault.