themighty logo

Why We Need to Redefine ‘Survivor’ for Those With PTSD


Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I want to talk about something.

When we think of the concept of a “survivor,” who do we see?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m proud our culture has begun to really discuss things like mental health, trauma and the things and people that cause it. And the avenues of support it opens up are incredible. But we need to talk about the ones who are left behind.

We all like to talk about the abuse survivor who uses their experience to help others, and that’s an amazing thing.

We don’t talk enough about the abuse survivor who struggles just to make it day to day, still feels the pain in their body, and re-experiences their trauma any time they hear abuse mentioned.

We all talk about the the advocate who stands against rape culture because when they were raped, nobody spoke up for them. And the person who can do that, who has that ability, is without any doubt a true hero.

We don’t talk enough about the survivor who is silenced. Who, when he or she shares their story or the things they believe in, is ignored or even mocked. And after that, they feel they should never share or stand up again.

We admire the survivors who start organizations, or use their creativity and voice to do something that makes a difference. I know I sound like I’m knocking it, but I’m not. These people remind me there is beauty in a broken world.

But nobody likes to talk about the survivor who can barely keep a roof over their head or maybe can’t. We don’t talk about the tears, the anger, the despair, the feeling like you stumbled into a world you don’t belong in, a world that moved on without you.

I’ve seen these survivors we don’t talk about. I am that survivor. We’re told we’re being “victims,” as if being affected by something you had no choice in makes you a bad person. We’re called “negative” and told we’re just being miserable. Just change your mind, people say; just think different. Feel different. Don’t feel that way.

To the ones we don’t talk about:

I am here with you, sharing your pain.

You can speak to me; I will listen.

I care, and you are not alone. I will help you when you need it.

And it is OK to feel like you do. It is OK to be a “victim” and still be a “survivor.” It is OK to get angry, to be upset.

But don’t give up. And when you can see the beauty in yourself — in the emotions and fire and tears — know I can see it too. I am with you, and I hear your voice.

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash