People told me not to call myself a 'victim' after my rape. Here's why I refused.

A man raped me seven years ago.

I was left traumatized and suicidal and with a complex linguistic decision: What should I call myself?

For a long time, I avoided using the terms rape "victim" or "survivor." I simply said, "I was raped" or "a man raped me." But the experience of being raped forced its way into my identity, not just my history.


It comes with the territory of writing publicly about my rape, of speaking openly about it. I am a woman; I am a writer; I am a rape ________.

Victim? Survivor?

I started where I always start: Google.

I typed "rape victim vs. survivor" into the search bar. After reading just a few articles, it became clear that the correct term — or at least the most search engine optimized term — for myself was "survivor."

Survivor is empowering and strong. It rolls off the tongue in a way that "victim" does not. My jaw relaxed, though I had not realized I was clenching it. I knew what to say. I had the words.

I didn't think to question those articles then, and in the years since, I've heard this particular message of empowerment repeated over and over again. It's a mantra of sorts: "We are not victims; we are survivors."

I've watched many who've experienced sexual violence articulate these words: many of the hundreds of women who spoke out against Larry Nassar; leaders in the #MeToo movement; sign-bearers at protests and at the Women's March.

Scrolling through news stories and watching YouTube videos on autoplay, I began to feel misrepresented.

Was I the only one who felt like "survivor" didn't accurately sum up my identity?

Beneath this question of terminology, there is an implication that we start out as victims, but we outgrow that label as we "triumph" and move past the immediate aftermath of the crime. Survivor implies having survived the recovery process.

Though the physical pain and rainbow of bruises did eventually fade, the impact of my rape never really did. I stopped doing a lot of things in the wake of the rape — traveling alone, going on runs outside, dating. Though eventually I was able to get my life back, I lost years to fear, to post-traumatic stress disorder, to hiding. Those years would've been different had I not been raped. I would be different had I not been raped.

For me, survivor sugarcoats the reality of rape.

Survivor tells an ultimately hopeful, inspiring, empowering story. Look at us, thriving despite violence. Survivor is easier for people to hear. It is more comfortable than victim. Victim reminds people of violent acts and brutal realities. Survivor makes them think of rousing music and impossible courage. Survivor is the story of sexual violence that the media, the public, wants to hear.

I don't know a single person that has experienced sexual violence and thinks they're better off for it. The act and aftermath of sexual violence is not oriented around the potential light at the end of the tunnel. 94% of rape victims have symptoms of PTSD, and 13% attempt suicide. Rape victims are up to 10 times more likely to abuse drugs. It's not all empowerment and #MeToo rallies and harrowing news stories with "happy" endings. It's not all inspiration.

My friend once told me "surviving rape made you brave and strong." But that's not true. I was brave and strong before somebody raped me. The rape made me afraid, made me cower on the gray-carpeted floor of my bedroom and avoid being touched, even by close friends and family, for years. I don't think I became stronger because of the rape. I think I simply got back to my baseline — brave and strong.

Conventional wisdom tells us to "get out of the victim mindset."

As if there were a stigma associated with the term "victim," and "survivor" seeks to evade it. Are victims of other crimes ashamed to have been victimized? Maybe. But there is a particular and particularly egregious stigma associated with sexual violence.

I refuse to feel ashamed of what was done to me. The shame of the act is not mine; it is on the one who perpetrated the crime. My rapist may never be punished, but he will always be guilty. The language I use to talk about sexual violence should place the spotlight on the fact that another person perpetrated a crime against me, and we do not call the victim of a robbery a "survivor."

I do not want to be the focus. I want the crime to be the focus. I want the criminal to be the focus.

When we hear the term victim, we think about the crime and acknowledge its perpetrator.

We know who these people are, though they are rarely imprisoned. My rapist had dark curly hair, a rough beard, and sharp fingernails.

When we hear the term survivor, the perpetrator is erased. Empowering victims, linguistically or otherwise, won't stop rape. There are survivors of a fire, a natural disaster, or a disease. Sexual violence is different. It is not an unstoppable pandemic. It is not a blameless illness. There is always somebody who bears the blame.

Though I prefer it, I avoid using the word "victim" when writing or speaking.

I use the word "survivor," the word the #MeToo movement wants me to use, because I want the movement to succeed. Common language is important to unification and a consistent message.

But when I'm alone with myself, I know my truth. Yes, I survived, but I am a victim of a heinous crime.  

Mostly, though, I wish I did not have to spend time worrying about verbiage. We need to get to a place where language can be more nuanced, more telling, and more personal. We need to be able to speak our truths however we want to articulate them, to fully own our stories and not just donate them to the cause.

This story originally appeared on The Lily, a subsidiary of The Washington Post, and is reprinted here with permission.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less

Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

Keep Reading Show less

There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

Keep Reading Show less