Which Stage of Survival Are You: Victim, Survivor, Thriver?

Guest Post by Rachel Thompson

girl in ivy UNSPLASH

It is my extreme pleasure to host this enlightening, informative and feeling guest post from the author, blogger, media manager and poet, Rachel Thompson. Read, enjoy, share:

Which Stage of Survival Are You: Victim, Survivor, Thriver?

By Rachel Thompson

At what point does a sexual abuse survivor (or any trauma survivor) go from victim to survivor, from survivor to thriver?

In our society, victim has a negative connotation (don’t be a victim! a constant mantra) however, in a purely legal sense, those of us who have been victims of horrific sexual abuse or traumatic events are recognized by the law as victims, just as those who perpetrated those crimes are perpetrators. What happened to us is criminal, and those who committed these crimes are criminals.

Telling us to ‘get over it,’ puts the onus on us, when we didn’t do anything wrong. Children don’t sexually abuse themselves.


Societal Ignorance


There’s such a huge amount of ignorance when it comes to people who treat victims of sexual abuse crimes and traumatic events. We’re told constantly to move on, get over it, don’t be a victim, as if we can simply put a little adhesive bandage on those feelings of shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, and whole host of other PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) symptoms that become a victim’s unwanted best friend post-trauma.


As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at age eleven, I’ve never considered myself a victim, even though I unknowingly suffered from many of what I mentioned above (not realizing until later, in therapy). My parents didn’t know how to deal with it, so in their own shame and guilt, they swept it under the proverbial rug. Finding my own way became my M.O., and it worked – or it seemed to – until I became a mother and my façade came crashing down. Depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, constant worrying about how to keep my baby safe became my constant obsession — I had moved back from survivor to victim again, and I did not want to be there. Thank goodness, I got help.


The Three Stages of Survival Defined


According to GoodTherapy.org:

The Victim Stage:


An individual in the victim stage feels as though he or she is still in the trauma—no matter how long ago the actual traumatic incident(s) occurred. The sense of being in that moment of time permeates the person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and even his or her sense of self. It is common for an individual in this stage to avoid many emotions while experiencing in abundance feelings of helplessness, vulnerability, fragility, self-pity, numbness, defeat, shame, self-hatred, and discouragement. 

The Survivor Stage:


Is the time when one begins to feel strong and confident and to truly believe that there are resources and choices. A key realization of this stage is that an individual has gotten through the trauma intact, or mostly intact, and is indeed outside of it. This understanding allows the person to begin integrating the trauma into his or her life story, to take control of life, and to recognize potential for change and growth, with less suffering, less pain, less guilt, and definitely less depression

The Thriver Stage:


The thriver stage crystallizes the growth of the survivor stage and takes one’s healing to the point where he or she has general satisfaction with life as well as a sense that ordinary life is both interesting and enjoyable. Commitment to moving forward, to taking care of one’s physical health, to investing in one’s career, relationships, and love and life allow these gains to occur. On an emotional level, feelings of strength, empowerment, compassion, resilience, and self-determination eclipse the emotions experienced within the victim stage. In addition a renewed sense of joy, peace, and happiness arises because one has grown, despite the traumatic experience, and is living well.

The Survival Dance


In my own experience, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life as a businessperson, mother, and writer cruising between survivor and thriver. I’m currently mostly in thriver mode, though I have my moments and occasional triggers, which I’ve learned to deal with through therapy, meds, support, and most importantly for me, through writing.

I’ve written five books, two about my experiences as what I’ve always referred to as being a survivor of the abuse (I never refer to those who have lived through any kind of traumatic experiences as victims because of the negative connotations, whether I agree with them or not). Perhaps, I need to rethink that and change it to thriver!

Sharing my own stories (in poetry in prose in Broken Pieces and Broken Placeswriting Broken People now) was a huge part of my own recovery, led me to starting the weekly Twitter chat #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday, 6pm pst/9pm est) in 2013 with incest survivor/licensed therapist Bobbi Parish, as well as now directing the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, which brings stories of trauma and recovery to life (both fiction and nonfiction), like H.M. Jones’ Monochrome – one of my favorite books in the imprint!

Telling our stories, sharing our worth, showing our vulnerability and growth – it all matters because we matter. I always advise authors to ‘Write what scares you,” brene brown shamebecause if you don’t feel it as you write it, we won’t feel it as we read it. This is part of thriving. I didn’t realize it myself as I wrote my own books; only later, as I read back through them and think, ‘Wow, I really went there, didn’t I?’ do I sit quietly with my thoughts and hope that someone feels less alone through my words.

Give yourself a break as you move through these stages, as it’s a journey, a process to recover. Part of you is lost, that’s true; but, part of you, a beautiful, amazing part, is also waiting to be found.


Stephen Fry, which child abuse victim do you think changed their mind about trigger warnings when you told them to grow up? 

 About Rachel Thompson: 



Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places(one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.


Author Site: rachelintheoc.com
BadRedhead Media Site: badredheadmedia.com
Twitter: @RachelintheOC
Twitter (Business): @BadRedheadMedia

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