Listen to Survivor's Stories
We need to know you are there for us. One of the hardest things I have ever done is excepting myself as a sexual abuse survivor. Once I excepted my abuse, disclosed, and started to heal, I was ready to tell my story and embrace the support of people in my life. Other than my immediate family, I was met with silence. It took so much, and so long, for me to come to this point, but it was such a taboo topic that there was no space to share my story. I had to create the space. It wasn't there and I truly believe the onus should not be on the survivor to create this space. We need people to look us in the eye and say the following:
“Thank you for sharing.”
“You are not to blame for what happened to you.”
“You didn’t deserve what happened to you.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you.”
“You are not what was done to you.”
“That was abuse, not healthy sexuality.”
“I support you in your healing process.”
“I respect you for addressing this.”
“I love you.”
I was lucky to have family that would listen to me when I really needed to share. Many survivors don't have that support. It just takes one brave friend to create a safe and nurturing place for survivors to share.
This is a sensitive topic where conversations won't come naturally for most people. If you have a survivor in your life, educate yourself. There are many great books. There are great stories to read on website such as 1in6.org. Click on the Bristlecone Project Tab and read the story of some beautiful survivors. You have Google at your disposal, search for information so you can help guide your loved one through their healing and recovery.
Be an ongoing source of support
I can tell you that healing is an up and down journey. Breakthroughs feel great and promote optimism. Triggers can lead to pretty bleak and dark places. Don't give up on us. I have been blessed with people in my life that are so patient with me as I recover.
Practice not giving advice or trying to "fix" the problem. We just need you to listen. Let us express ourselves and don't get exasperated. We are feeling so many emotions, and shame will just cause us to freeze up and stop sharing. It is very hard to hear our stories. They are tragic and don't make for easy listening, but the more we tell our stories the more we heal. We need a constant, positive presence in our healing journey.
I have one last important blog to write and share. It's purpose is necessary to solidify the impact of this project, but it hasn't been an easy one to write. Once shared, I know I will need the type of support I have written about here to move past the emotions the post will bring up in me.
Thank you for reading and thank you for the future support you will provide a survivor in your life.