In 2014, I had an incident with someone in the subway, a stranger. It resulted in that individual being arrested and charged with assault. There was a trial, I testified and they were convicted. I’ve also written here about other experiences I’ve had where I was the “victim” of violence. I know I’m not unique, it happens far too often to too many people. What I’m getting at is that even though I’ve had these experiences I don’t like the word victim. I bristle at the term.
It’s funny because I’m a lawyer so I know that some words are just rote or pro forma, they’re just the way the system defines people. It’s not a statement about their soul or their personality or whatever. It’s not an assessment of their character. It’s just a word used to distinguish parties. Like plaintiff, defendant, judge or juror. I know all judges aren’t literally judgmental. Yes some are, some aren’t. But they’re called judge because it’s their job to make judgments of law and in some instances, findings of fact, in a legal proceeding. For a judge to get hung up on a word like judge and anxiously tell everyone from the bench, “Hey everyone, just so you know I’m not a judgmental person. Please don’t think I’m all like judge-y or anything in my actual life.” Would be ridiculous.
So similarly, when or if people have said I’m the victim of various crimes, it shouldn’t necessarily make me feel like I’m weak or powerless but it does. I don’t like the word. I’m slightly more comfortable with the word survivor, thank you Destiny’s Child. Although that feels too weighty of a word to step into. I just want a word that less makes me sound like I have no agency. Because I do have agency. The word victim makes me feel like someone is doing something to me all over again. In my head I’m hearing, “She’s a victim! She’s a victim! She’s a VICTIM!” I wanna shout back “NO, I’M NOT!” Yes, I was on the receiving end of some gnarly shit but I’m not weak. I’m a badass, thank you very much. I prefer the word recipient maybe or target. For whatever reason that feels less of a reflection on my character or the manner in which I showed up for the experience.