Rape victims (revision)

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Conversation initiated with this tweet, November 22 2019. Current heading is Rape victims. A library has locally changed this to Rape survivors. At the very least we should suggest “Rape survivors” as a Use For (450). Should it be made the new heading?

Jenna Freedman suggested this change in 2008 via suggestion form but it was not implemented.

Current authority record:

150 __ |a Rape victims                                                [preferred term]
450 __ |a Female rape victims                                [use for]
550 __ |w g |a Sexual abuse victims                    [broader heading]

We need evidence (in the form of authoritative reference books/websites) to demonstrate that the term has now shifted in the literature to no longer use “victims”. For examples of resources that LC finds authoritative, see this (not exhaustive) list.

List of resources

  • Figley, C. R. (2012). Encyclopedia of Trauma : An Interdisciplinary Guide page 258: “For example, rape crisis centers lobbied to modify sexual assault laws, increase victim rights, raise awareness of sexual violence, and improve the system’s response to women. In the context of movement, the term survivor rather than victim was adopted to emphasize that women who had experienced sexual violence had a voice and the power to make choices about their own process of healing.”


Questions about “Rape survivors” as the preferred term

  • “I’m hesitant to change the LCSH because a lot of people do not survive being raped, but are killed in the course of their attack, which might possibly result in a record with the headings 1. Rape survivors. 2. Murder victims, which might come across as insensitive.”–Twitter comment
  • “In therapy, the terms are “target” for anyone who is raped (including those who do and don’t survive) and “survivor” for those of us who survive.”–Twitter comment
  • RAINN Key Terms and Phrases webpage (“Victim or Survivor?”)
  • May 2018 article in Harpers Bazaar: I’m Not a Sexual Assault “Survivor”—I’m a Victim



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