Monday, July 27, 2009

Transitioning from Victim to Survivor to Advocate - Part 1

Victim -> Survivor -> Advocate

The journey from being a crime victim to serving as a crime victim advocate is a journey of healing. In order to be healthy and responsible in the role of advocate there is a series of transitions that are absolutely necessary to be effective.

Most people have been victimized to some degree in their lives, whether by cruelty, politics, economics, disease, accident or even the weather. Victims of domestic and sexual violence experience the most personal and intimate violence that one person can perpetrate upon another. It is the ultimate betrayal that shakes a victim to the core.

A victim of interpersonal violence must necessarily focus on the most basic needs - safety, mental and physical health and just getting through the day. Life is constant chaos - emotions range from shock, guilt, fear, rage, lack of control, humiliation and powerlessness, not to mention the physical manifestations both obvious and unseen. Trauma colors our perceptions.

Once a victim of interpersonal violence is able to remove herself and establish a modicum of safety and peace, healing begins. Part of the healing process is the recognition that we are so much more than those experiences. We recognize that "victim" is not our identity, but part of our experience. Life did not stop at the betrayal and violence. Healing is choosing not to let your experience consume you. If we maintain a victim mentality we give our abusers amazing power while abandoning and denying ourselves. As a survivor we reclaim our lives.

The process from victim to survivor is one that takes time and distance. Coping skills form for the times you must be reminded of your pain but you've learned to protect yourself emotionally. You've taken his power over you away. Everyone has their own process - going through criminal and/ or civil court, self-defense training, therapy, journaling, participating in support groups or talking to friends and family and building a life free from fear. It is important to recognize that it is a process. Healing does not happen overnight.

In the next post I will address the transition from survivor to victim advocate and the necessary boundaries that must be established. Please consider these definitions from Webster:

Victim - (Casualty, target) :
*One that is acted on and adversely affected by a force or agent
*One that is injured, destroyed or sacrificed under any of various conditions
*One that is subjected to oppression, hardship or mistreatment.
*One that is tricked or duped
*To remain or live after someone's death
*To continue to exist or live after
*To continue to function or prosper after and despite of
Advocate-(promoter, booster, champion, supporter):
*One that pleads the case of another
*One that defends or maintains a cause or proposal
*One that supports or promotes the interests of another

*Relating or affecting a particular person
*Relating to an individual
*To make whole or sound
*Restore to health
*Return to sound state
*To cause an undesirable condition to be overcome
*Unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others

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