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Victim vs. Survivor: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 7, 2023
A victim is someone harmed by an event or action, while a survivor is someone who endures through adversity or challenges.

Key Differences

A victim typically refers to a person who has suffered harm or injury, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, due to an event, circumstance, or the actions of another. On the other hand, a survivor signifies a person who has persisted, endured, and often overcome such adversities.
The term victim often emphasizes the negative experience and the passive receiving of harm or injustice. Conversely, survivor conveys a sense of resilience and active overcoming of challenges, suggesting strength and perseverance.
While both victim and survivor can be used to describe someone who has faced adversity, the context or perspective from which we view their experience often determines the chosen term. Speaking of someone as a victim might highlight their suffering, while referring to them as a survivor emphasizes their resilience.
It's crucial to note that some individuals may identify with being a victim to acknowledge the injustices they faced, while others might prefer survivor to focus on their journey of healing and recovery.
In some contexts, a person might transition from being viewed as a victim to a survivor, marking a phase of personal growth, recovery, and empowerment after undergoing challenging experiences.

Comparison Chart


Harm received
Resilience shown


Passive experience
Active overcoming


Focuses on suffering
Highlights endurance


May acknowledge injustice
Often signifies recovery


Initial phase of harm
Later phase of healing

Victim and Survivor Definitions


Someone adversely affected by circumstances.
Economic downturns can create financial victims.


An individual who overcomes traumatic experiences.
Survivors of the accident formed a close-knit support group.


An individual suffering from a negative event.
The flood left many victims in its wake.


An individual who outlives others.
He's the sole survivor of his World War II battalion.


An individual who has been deceived or cheated.
The scam artist targeted elderly victims.


Someone who continues living after a threatening event.
Cancer survivors gathered for an annual event.


A person harmed by another's actions.
The bully's victim was afraid to go to school.


To remain alive or in existence.


A person who suffers from prejudice or discrimination.
Many feel like victims of systemic bias.


To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere
Families that were surviving in tents after the flood.


One who is harmed or killed by another, especially by someone committing a criminal or unlawful act
A victim of a mugging.


To remain functional or usable
I dropped the radio, but it survived.


A living creature slain and offered as a sacrifice during a religious rite.


To live longer than; outlive
She survived her husband by five years.


One who is harmed by or made to suffer under a circumstance or condition
Victims of war.
Victims of an epidemic.
Victims of poverty.


To live, persist, or remain usable through
Plants that can survive frosts.
A clock that survived a fall.


A person who is tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of
The victim of a cruel hoax.


To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after
Survived child abuse.


One that is harmed—killed, injured, subjected to oppression, deceived, or otherwise adversely affected—by someone or something, especially another person or event, force, or condition; in particular:
The youngest victims of the brutal war
Victim of a bad decision by a rushed and overworked judge


One who survives, especially one who survives a traumatic experience.
From this moment on, I choose to live not as a victim, but as a survivor.


One who is harmed or killed by a crime or scam.
Victims of assault; the murderer's victims
Became another victim of the latest scam


(figuratively) A person who is able to endure hardship.


One who is harmed or killed by an accident or illness.
A fundraiser for victims of AIDS; a victim of a car crash


One who knew a specific decedent.
She was from a large family and had many friends, so the funeral was crowded with mourning survivors.


One who is harmed or killed as a result of other people's biases, emotions or incompetence, or their own.
A victim of his own pride; a victim of her own incompetence
The newcomer never managed to make friends, a victim of the town's deep distrust of outsiders
A victim of sexism; victims of a racist system


One who survives or outlives another person, or any time, event, or thing.
The survivor boundIn filial obligation for some termTo do obsequious sorrow.


One who is harmed or killed as a result of a natural or man-made disaster or impersonal condition.
Relief efforts to help victims of the hurricane
Victim of an optical illusion; victim of a string of bad luck
Local businesses were the main victims of the economic downturn


The longer liver of two joint tenants, or two persons having a joint interest in anything.


A living being which is slain and offered as a sacrifice, usually in a religious rite.


One who lives through affliction;
The survivors of the fire were taken to a hospital


The transfigured body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.


One who outlives another;
He left his farm to his survivors


A living being sacrificed to some deity, or in the performance of a religious rite; a creature immolated, or made an offering of.
Led like a victim, to my death I'll go.


An animal that survives in spite of adversity;
Only the fittest animals were survivors of the cold winters


A person or thing destroyed or sacrificed in the pursuit of an object, or in gratification of a passion; as, a victim to jealousy, lust, or ambition.


A person who persists through adversity.
She's a survivor of a challenging childhood.


A person or living creature destroyed by, or suffering grievous injury from, another, from fortune or from accident; as, the victim of a defaulter; the victim of a railroad accident.


A person demonstrating resilience in difficult situations.
Despite losing his job, he's a real survivor and started his own business.


Hence, one who is duped, or cheated; a dupe; a gull.


An unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance


A person who is tricked or swindled


Does being a survivor mean fully recovered?

Not necessarily; being a survivor can mean enduring, even if challenges persist.

Is the term victim always negative?

While it highlights harm or suffering, it's essential to validate the experiences of victims.

Can someone be both a victim and a survivor?

Yes, many people experience being a victim but later identify as survivors through healing.

Why might someone prefer "survivor" over "victim"?

To emphasize strength, resilience, and recovery rather than harm suffered.

Can you be a victim of natural events?

Yes, people can be victims of natural disasters, diseases, or accidents.

Is it essential to differentiate between victim and survivor?

It's crucial for understanding and addressing individual needs and perspectives.

Do all victims eventually become survivors?

It's a personal journey; some may identify as survivors, while others might not.

Is a survivor always related to traumatic events?

Often, but it can also refer to outliving others or enduring any challenges.

Can "victim" be used in a legal context?

Yes, it often refers to someone harmed in a crime or legal wrongdoing.

Is "survivor guilt" a recognized phenomenon?

Yes, it's when survivors feel guilt for having survived when others didn't.

Is it okay to label someone as a victim without their consent?

It's essential to be sensitive and respect individual preferences in labeling.

Can the use of "victim" be empowering?

For some, it's a way to acknowledge and validate the injustices they faced.

Are there specific therapies for trauma survivors?

Yes, trauma-informed therapies are designed to support survivors in their healing journey.

Can "survivor" refer to non-traumatic challenges?

Yes, it can apply to any situation where someone shows endurance and resilience.

Can animals be referred to as victims or survivors?

Yes, particularly in situations of abuse, accidents, or natural events.

Are there support groups for survivors?

Absolutely, many support groups cater to survivors of various challenges.

How can we support victims in their journey to becoming survivors?

Offer understanding, resources, a listening ear, and validate their experiences.

How can media influence perceptions of victims and survivors?

Media portrayal can shape public views, emphasizing either vulnerability or resilience.

Are there cultures where the distinction between victim and survivor is different?

Cultural contexts can influence how these terms are perceived and used.

Is the transition from victim to survivor linear?

No, it's a personal journey that can have ups and downs, and everyone's path is unique.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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