Survivors and Transcenders

By Andrew Vachss

Also available in Russian (http://bit.ly/2kkQF5m)

I believe that many people who were abused as children do themselves—and the entire struggle—a disservice when they refer to themselves as "survivors." A long time ago, I found myself in the middle of a war zone. I was not killed. Hence, I "survived." That was happenstance ... just plain luck, not due to any greatness of character or heroism on my part. But what about those raised in a POW camp called "childhood?" Some of those children not only lived through it, not only refused to imitate the oppressor (evil is a decision, not a destiny), but actually maintained sufficient empathy to care about the protection of other children once they themselves became adults and were "out of danger."

To me, such people are our greatest heroes. They represent the hope of our species, living proof that there is nothing bio–genetic about child abuse. I call them transcenders, because "surviving" (i.e., not dying from) child abuse is not the significant thing. It is when chance becomes choice that people distinguish themselves. Two little children are abused. Neither dies. One grows up and becomes a child abuser. The other becomes a child protector. One "passes it on." One "breaks the cycle." Should we call them both by the same name? Not in my book. (And not in my books, either.)