Friday, October 23, 2009

How to Help A Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse

Do not tell us to just get over it. Know that if we could, we would if it were that easy to do.
Listen to us when we need to talk.
Remind us that the abuse was not our fault.
Remind us that we are people of worth, just for being who we are. Tell us that we do not need to be perfect.
Give us unconditional love and/or acceptance.
Give us space when we need it.
Do not say you know how we feel. Do not tell us that we should not feel angry or sad. Allow us to to express our feelings and do not judge us.
Do not tell us that we need to forgive and forget. We will do that in our own time and in our own way.
Do not ask why we did not tell anyone sooner.
Do not minimize our experience or our pain in any way.
Do not compare our experience to others. Chances are we probably already do this ourselves, and to know others do this is extremely detrimental.
Do not use the word "just". Just this or just that makes it feel like you are undermining our pain.
Help us to be gentle with ourselves.
Thank us for sharing our story with you.
Acknowledge how courageous we are being in sharing our stuff.
If our issues make you uncomfortable, maybe you need to look at your own childhood and see what is there - where the discomfort is coming from. Don't try to shut us up because of your discomfort.
Do not say "If that happened to me, then I would..." No one knows what they would have done.
Do not justify the abuse and brush it under the table.
Believe the victim and search for the truth.
Pray together. Be a friend. Offer your shoulder to cry.

**Contributions were made (and are being made) to this list by myself and other survivors. Some made comments and you can read them on the original post.
If any survivors have anything to add to this list, please let me know. This is an ongoing list to help others help us! It gives us a voice.


Just Be Real said...

Colleen, this post is very powerful. Believe it or not the one thing that stands out for me is, the "Thank us for sharing our story with you."

Blessings dear one!

Colleen said...

JBR, thank you. Yes, that is a great addition to the list. When we share our stories with someone, I think we make ourselves feel very vulnerable and afraid. At least, that is how I feel.
I meant to add to that post that the list came up from other people not just me, so will do it now. Thanks for your comment!

Patricia Singleton said...

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with ours is one of the greatest gifts that we can give them or ourselves. Being vulnerable allows authenticity to happen. Thanks for sharing this list with our online world.

Colleen said...

Patricia, I love your words on vulnerability. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable may be the place where we are as "real" as we can be. Or authentic as you said. Scary but precious too. Thanks for your words and your contributions to the list.

April_optimist said...

What a great post! I also love your collage in the next post.

Colleen said...

April, I am glad you like it and the collage too! Very healing, both posts! If you have anything to add to this list at any time, just let me know.

Marj aka Thriver said...

What a wonderful compilation of survivor needs and helpful tips you have building here and in the previous post. Excellent! Thanks for allowing us to use this for The Blog Carnival. I so appreciate your work and your words.

Colleen said...

Marj, thank you. It was amazing how this list worked out. I appreciate your kind words and all you do and write to support other survivors.

Michael Finley said...

I would add do not say "If that happened to me then I would..." No one knows what they would have done.

Colleen said...

Michael, Thank you! Good suggestion. I will add it to the list. Thanks for your visit.

beautifuldreamer said...

This list is powerful and true. Thanks for sharing it!

Colleen said...

beautiful dreamer - you are most welcome. I agree. I put link on my sidebar so people can easily go back to the list. I know I will reread it from time to time.

Shen said...

This is powerful. thank you for sharing. People cant know what it's like unless they've been there... the whole "get over it" idea is one of the most hurtful things that someone can say because it brings more shame - more sense that we are somehow to blame.

Colleen said...

Shen, thank you so much for your comment. I totally agree with what you said. That "get over it" comment was so painful for me during the clergy sexual abuse crisis. I felt just like what you described. It is what motivated me to write my book. I felt like I needed to teach the world!

Marj aka Thriver said...

Hi, Colleen! I hope the depression is lifting for you at least a little.

I'm commenting on this post because I would like to link to it (and the list posted on 10/10) for a little quicky "mini carnival" I'm hosting tomorrow (12/23) at my blog. I was tempted to blow off the December issue with all the triggers, therapy and general stress of the holidays, but then Patricia gave me the idea that a little carnival just focusing on "holiday survival tips for survivors" would be a great idea and much-needed post.

Since folks are going to be around friends and family for the holidays, being assertive about what they need from then is important, too.

So, unless you have any objections, I'm going to link to these posts tomorrow. If you have any questions or concerns, comment at my blog as soon as you can or e-mail me at Thanks in advance and blessings to you, friend!