Survivor Words

Musings about categories, naming, who we mean to include/exclude, who feels included/excluded by what words. Naming of several kinds of trauma, non-graphic.

Survivor” by itself — contextual, but generally understood to be about sexual violence, yes?

Abuse survivor — modified, sometimes included under the broad “survivor” but I get the sense it needs to be spelled out, and isn’t always included? (This is my primary worry, more than survivor/victim/etc. Wondering about “shoulds” and intentions and lack of definitions by resources. And is there even stuff for abuse-without-sexual-violence survivors?)

Trauma survivors — extra broad, could include combat veterans, non-sexual violence like mugging or homicide attempts or hate crimes, and also the above. Maybe bullying? Also possibly suicide attempt survivors? And sometimes people who have outlived others’ suicides (which I tend to think needs a very separated space from suicide attempt survivors).

And sometimes things like 9/11, or a plane hijacking — and sometimes secondary trauma, seeing violence happen, or hearing about violence (like I heard about anti-trans violence).

Veteran — I like the idea of reclaiming this as an alternative to survivor/victim, and perhaps broader, but I get the sense its alt purpose would have to be spelled out each use. And then there’s not wanting to be associated with war, imperialism, inflicting violence, all those things. Or to re-centralize combat vets given their priority in US PTSD resources.

Victim — again a sometimes-reclaimed, broad term, usually meaning sexual violence in the context of people describing themselves, can be modified. Arguments I’ve seen include that human violence is not a natural disaster, and that “survivor” gets weaponized as pushy be-over-it.

Survivor of the mental health system, of institutionalization, forced medication, etc. Versus:

Cancer survivor, and other modified survivors usually about physical/mental health — these seem very specific, and about something in remission (so, not an ongoing chronic illness? perhaps because you haven’t “won” / had an end-date and survived? The whole idea of trauma as acute, past-tense, and writing an epilogue as healing).

And the more chronic (and ill-studied) stuff: intergenerational trauma, like a member of a certain group or nation (or race/ethnicity) targeted by genocide/eugenics. The trauma of marginalization, like microaggressions, internalized isms (and how this intersects with witnessing or experiencing violence).
Of course this list is incomplete.

I suppose my main question is: when we say “survivors,” do we mean/want to include (or exclude, or be vague about) abuse survivors? What types of trauma can we support together? What traumas do we feel “don’t fit” in our support spaces, or how do we feel we can only get in via a “qualifying” trauma and can we slip other bits in? Especially when one form of trauma may well inform another (may indeed seem to prime us for it)?

How do we address this stuff, holistically yet with specializations?

My only recommendation; be clear about your intentions, and aware of all the other traumas (and if possible, their resources).


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