Sometimes the terms victim and survivor are used interchangeably when it comes to sexual assault. However, thanks to my own experience with sexual assault, I believe there is a difference. It is a subtle and nuanced difference, and one can be both victim and survivor at the same time.
The word victim suggests a more passive state. A victim feels that their experience happened because of something they did, or, more likely, did not do. A victim might believe that it happened because they didn’t keep a close enough eye on their drink. Maybe they’ve convinced themselves that something they were wearing had something to do with the event. Perhaps they felt they could have fought back, and instead froze. For a victim, sexual assault is something that happens to them that they had no control over.
It’s a little different for a survivor. A survivor has a more active role in their experience. A survivor is the one who reports the incident. A survivor doesn’t let their assaulter walk away without a black eye. A survivor attempts to regain their control over the situation.
Basically, victimhood vs survivorship for me is a state of mind. A victim feels like they let it happen, and a survivor fights back. This is not to say that those who are more victim-like are somehow at fault for their assault. They are not. “Responsibility to the responsible.” It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, or how well you’re watching your drink. You are not in charge of other people’s #choices. The only person responsible for sexual assault is the sexual assaulter him (or her; women are guilty of it, too) self.