Donna Phillips, MSW RSW
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Changing from a Victim to a Survivor

 It is natural to view yourself as a victim and to experience all of the feelings and attitudes that accompany that victim status when the trauma has only recently occurred or there has been no opportunity for working through the emotions and thoughts connected to the trauma. It takes time and effort to move from the status of being a victim to becoming a survivor. The feelings and thoughts associated with being a victim are overwhelmingly negative and self-defeating. The feelings and thoughts associated with being a survivor, on the other hand, are more positive, forward looking, and confident. While it is natural and expected that everyone who has been exposed to trauma starts with feeling like a victim, realization of the potential of this person can only be achieved if their status changes to that of becoming a survivor. This exercise will help you understand the differences between victims and survivors and help you define your own current status.
1.     The following words or phrases describe either a victim or a survivor, but they are presented to you in a jumbled and mixed-up order. Your task is to look at each word or phrase and label it with a "V" for “Victim” or an "S" for “Survivor.” You will have to sort through the list to finally end up with a profile of words that describe the victim and words that describe a survivor.
List of Descriptors
Depressed                                                      Preoccupied with trauma
Has overcome pain                                          Enjoys living
Blames perpetrator                                          Lives in the past
Pessimistic                                                    Wants understanding
Hopeless                                                        Enjoys people
Empowered                                                     Letting go of anger
Trauma is in perspective                                  Growing in trust
Defeated                                                        No energy
Lives in the present and future                         Dominated by fear
Helpless                                                         More smiles than tears
Hopeful                                                          Distrustful
Withdrawn socially                                          Bitter
Optimistic                                                      Confident
Ashamed                                                        Renewed energy
Needs sympathy                                            Focused on the pain
2.     As you look through your list of words and phrases that describe both the victim and the survivor, do you see yourself more as a victim or as a survivor? Why?
3.     Which three of the descriptor words or phrases are the most accurate in describing you and your current status?
4.     What three words or phrases were most accurate in describing you during the trauma?
5.     What three words or phrases best described you a year ago before you began the journey toward becoming a survivor?
6.     On a scale of 1 to 5, rate your degree of feeling like a victim (1) or a survivor (5).
Victim                                                                                                                    Survivor
7.     What has helped you or will help you the most in moving from being a victim to becoming a survivor?