Victims vs Survivors

by MaryLee Thompson-Saban

Perpetual copyright 2015

May 8, 2015

Years ago, the first formal training I had in being a Domestic Violence/Rape Advocate was a class through our community college.  It was taught by a wonderful woman, a professor there at the college, whose husband was a physician in town.


On the first day, the first subject she covered was the difference between being a victim and being a survivor.  I had never thought about it before.  All people, she said, have things happen to them or around them in their lives.  It usually affects them deeply.  Ever notice how one person moves on, and another gets stuck on what happened, always talking about the bad things other people did that affected him/her?  Most of the first class was taken up in teaching women who had been domestic violence victims or rape or any other traumatic experience to move on, quit blaming others and take control of their own lives and destiny.  She pointed out how this applied to men as well.  She even commented how her husband saw the affects of the stress of 'victimhood' in his patients, stress that manifested itself in health problems, anger, maybe what we would now call PTSD.


Her last comment that night was sometimes in your counseling when you get past the medical help, the compassion, the finding of shelter etc, you have to get blunt and force the discussion into how that person is going to move forward in life, leaving the bad stuff behind.  That is not easy to do.  I found in working with the women, it took many trips back before the message got through.  


The same is true of families who have to deal with drug issues with a loved one, or alcohol issues, or whatever.  That is one of the reasons why the support groups for the families have sprung up.  Dealing with it is not easy, and many times the family members through their hurt are becoming victims of the other one's drug, alcohol or abuse problems without actually being a direct victim.


It becomes even less easy when you have to deal with it all in your family and circle of friends.  You have a choice.  Reach out because you care, but run the risk of losing them.  Or be quiet and watch them sink in their own problems or anger, whatever it is.


This is not a pretty world we live in.  It never has been, and it never will be until the Lord decides to put a stop to it all.  But we can change how we react to it.  And how we allow it to affect us.


For further reading, we should understand what PTSD is and how to deal with it in a loved one.  It is not just referring to the military.  Any person, child or adult, who has gone traumatic experiences can develop PTSD.  There is a lot of help available, but the first line of help should come from family and friends who care about them and who have gotten past the stage of 'why' are they doing this to me.



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