‘Did you know?’ Thursdays

04 Aug ‘Did you know?’ Thursdays

‘Victim’ or ‘Survivor’:  what’s the difference?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary a ‘victim‘ is : (late 15c.) “living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power”; from Latin victima “person or animal killed as a sacrifice.”(…); “person who is hurt, tortured, or killed by another”(…); “person oppressed by some power or situation” (…);”person taken advantage of”. On the other hand, a ‘survivor’ is defined as : (early 15c.) (…) “one who outlives another” (…);  “one who has a knack for pulling through adversity”.
The two terms are often used interchangeably, although the term ‘survivor’ is growing in popularity. In fact, ‘survivor’ conjures up an image of strength and resilience, which according to some, is preferable to the sense of weakness and vulnerability conveyed by the term ‘victim’.
Every person who has suffered crime should be free to define and interpret their experience as they wish. Some people may see themselves as victims, others as survivors, and others yet may not identify with any of the two terms. However, in the legal context, the term ‘victim’ carries a lot of weight. Victims are entitled to specific rights and safeguards under EU and national law. In particular, the 2012/29/EU Directive, which was recently transposed into Maltese law, establishes minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.

Words have meaning and power. Although it may seem trivial to debate vocabulary choices, the implications of using certain terms instead of others, can be more serious and far-reaching, than one would expect.

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