According to the Huffington Post, upon surviving a traumatic experience, “To move on with your life, you must break away from identifying yourself as a victim and transcend this experience by becoming a survivor.” The term “victim” is so loaded with negative stereotypes and a certain stigma that claiming victim status seems to only warrant more abuse. However, in order to enforce human rights, it is necessary for these survivors to identify as victims in order to bring justice to themselves and their abusers.
According to E-International Relations (E-IR), a website for students and scholars of international politics, there are two perceived victim models, the “pathetic victim paradigm” and the “heroic victim paradigm.” The former is seen as helpless and passive (e.g. Jews in a Nazi concentration camp), while the latter fights back (e.g. nonviolent protestors of totalitarian regimes). However, both are so polarized that it does not consider the complex ways with which victimization works—for instance, when the “pathetic” victim chooses to act, sometimes at the risk of themselves, or when “heroic” victims lose hope and give in to their abusers.
We should recognize the two paradigms as faulty measures of victimization and legitimize the varying degrees of passivity and protest that victims display in order to promote justice for all who have been subjected to human rights violations. Only then can we begin to lessen the negativity surrounding the term.