It can be hard to know what to do or say if someone comes to you and shares their story of abuse, especially if it is not part of your trauma narrative. And even if it is, even if you’ve experienced something similar it can be hard to hear another person’s story. You may not have dealt with your own trauma and listening to someone else can be triggering. It can bring out not so great feeling feelings like jealousy, fear, and even realization. Jealousy that they were able to come forward and you still don’t feel ready. Fear that they came to you because they know what you went through, or are going through. The possible realization that you may be going through something similar. Any of these feelings can also produce guilt. Guilt that you are thinking about yourself while someone else is opening up to you.
It doesn’t matter if the abuse is currently happening or if it happened in the past, it can make you feel helpless. You may want to fix it and bust into their life guns blazing, ready to save them. You may want to move faster than they do. Imagine if you are the very first person to believe their story. On average women (and girls) have to tell 6-8 people before they are believed. They may still be getting over the shock of your belief while you are gearing up for battle. It’s natural to want to protect those we love. But it is important to let the person sharing with you set the pace. It is important to let them name what is happening or has happened.
There are several things I want to share in this post about how to be a good ally to a survivor. The first is an article by The Healing Center. This is a great website and a great resource to both survivors and their friends and family. The article is called “How to be an Ally” and if offers 12 suggestions of ways to be supportive of the survivors in your life including, listen, believe, and educate yourself. Read the full article here. I originally saw this posted on another woman’s blog, Purposefully Scarred. On her “About” page she shares her own story and states that the purpose of her blog is to “[raise] awareness for survivors of abuse and [help] one another find purpose in our scars.” I encourage your to click around her site, she’s got a lot of great articles and stories.
The second thing I wanted to share is a YouTube video I found posted on One Woman, another blog written by an amazing and brave woman who has been sharing her story. I encourage you to check out her blog as well. The video is a young man sharing words that are important for every survivor to hear, whether it is from him or from you.
As we continue to move through October and domestic violence awareness month I encourage you to be sensitive to the people around you. 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience violence in her lifetime. So the chances are high that either you or several women in your life have been affected by violence. Love each other well.