While both terms are applicable and correct, they serve different needs and have different meanings.
Dictionary.com defines a victim as “a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency.” Meanwhile, a survivor is “a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship or setbacks.”
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) tends to use the term “victim” when referring to someone who has recently been affected by sexual violence, when discussing a particular crime, or when referring to aspects of the criminal justice system. They often use “survivor” to refer to someone who has gone through the recovery process or when discussing the short- or long-term effects of sexual violence.
The people of Social Solutions want to shift the power. As of May 2021, we will officially refer to anything formally named Victim Services to Violence Survivors. This includes our Apricot for Victim Services product offering being renamed to Apricot for Violence Survivors.
The name, Violence Survivors, supports the positive and hopeful work organizations provide to help keep clients safe, start a new life and heal from trauma related to violence.
“I came to Social Solutions from working in the public health and nonprofit world of sexual and reproductive health and rights. So, when I joined three years ago, I was already aware of the shift in the field to talking about victims of sexual assaults and domestic violence as survivors. To me, the language is about centering the person rather than the traumatic event(s) they experienced.Jina Sorensen, Professional Services Operations Manager
Early on in my days with Social Solutions, I sort of cringed at the term ‘victim services,’ though I came to learn that is how the federal funding agencies refer to it, and historically how the field referred to itself. Victim to me always sounded blaming and shaming. Violence Survivor, to me, speaks to the resilience and bravery of people who have lived through hell and come out the other side. It also evokes healing and hope for the future.
Post #MeToo, it seems like a natural evolution to move away from Victim and toward Survivor. Similarly to how ‘Battered Women,’ which sounds like a faceless monolith, were better served being called ‘Victims’ to at least acknowledge they didn’t deserve what happened to them. But now these ‘Victims’ aren’t defined by what or who happened to them, instead by fighting for their lives as ‘Survivors’.
Social Solutions developed Apricot for Violence Survivors (AVS) specifically for organizations providing support and services to survivors of domestic violence. AVS was designed to enable organizations to securely collect program data through prebuilt and custom forms, including data related to homeless and shelter services, and report on the results of those programs internally and externally.
Learn more about AVS and how it can support your organization and those you serve today.
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