Tuesday, October 20, 2009

If You Want to Help a Survivor

I had been thinking today of all the wrong things someone recently said to me about my being sexually abused. Some of them really made me angry. So I thought  - what kinds of things would be helpful to me (or another survivor.)
Well, here is a list:
Listen to me when I need to talk.
Remind me that the abuse was not my fault.
Remind me that I am a person of worth, just for being me. Tell me that I do not need to be perfect.
Give me unconditional love and/or acceptance.
Give me space when I need it.
Do not say you know how I feel. Do not tell me that I should not feel angry or sad. Allow me to to express my feelings and do not judge me.
Do not tell me that I need to forgive and forget. I will do that in my own time and in my own way.
Do not ask why I did not tell anyone sooner.
Do not minimize my experience or my pain in any way. 
What would you put on this list?


Lisa Marie said...

Do not compare my experience to others. Chances are I probably already do this myself, 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 my pain.

Colleen said...

Lisa Marie, thank you so much. I agree with your additions to the list. Comparison can seem to undermine too, do you think?

Just Be Real said...

Colleen, right on list! Words that are out of ignorance can certainly cut us to the core! Great post.

b/t/w received your book. Started reading. Wow!

sarah said...

it's a good list. I think I may put be gentle with yourself. I was so hard on me. I send you tons of hugs Colleen. You are one very courageous lady. Sarah

rox said...

I think one of the biggest things for me would for people to truely go over what has been shared with them later on , while at home in a quiet place . take it with them to help other children .
also a thank you ever now and then to a survivor for sharing would be nice too :-)
I've been questioning not how to help survivors but children I see who are being abused right now . There is a boy at the pool I see all the time . Then when out at a local toy store I saw this city official who is a pedafile he was with a beautiful little girl maybe 3-4yo . I felt like vomiting ( this is one of my reactions when being face to face with abusers who have access to children ) . so how can I help that child ?
This is pretty much in God's hands situation isn't it .
I thought if given the chance to talk to the child I could re-inforce to them what a great talker they are never to stop speaking people would love to listen to you . But you can't say much when the child is with the abuser .
any ideas on that situation ?

Patricia Singleton said...

If my 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 me up because of your discomfort. Acknowledge how courageous this survivor is being in sharing her/his stuff.

Patricia Singleton said...

Do not tell me to just get over it. Know that if I could, I would if it were that easy to do.

Colleen said...

JBR, thank you for your comment about the blog AND the book! Hope you find the book helpful.

Sarah, you are courageous too. Thank you for your suggestion for the list. Maybe I should put all of this together on my sidebar or something?!?!?

Roz, I dont know. Is that official a known sex offender? Is he registered? If so, can you report him? What an awful thing to see! I think the only thing we can do to stop this is to educate, educate, edcuate. Educate the kids, educate adults.

Patricia, Good one for the list!! thank you! Acknowledging our courage would be great to hear wouldnt it? Instead we often get blamed somehow.

Colleen said...

Patricia, I just saw your second one! Good one. Do people think we like dealing with this everyday?? God bless!

HeartfeltHeartLook said...

Thank you Colleen. I always worry about being insensitive to others when it comes to experiences I know nothing about. If I ever do that, please call me on it. I need to know.

You are helping so many! Don't stop!!!

Colleen said...

Heartfelt, thank you for caring so much that you would tell me to let you know if you are being insensitive. It means a lot. God bless.

rox said...

No Colleen these are abusers who are just known via we survivors . It is very rare to have charges never mind a conviction especially in regards to child sexual abuse rings with high profile people of status . We do not have access either to lists or registry like you do in the states. I've two friends who run child daycares and they do get a list from police and they can pass it on to me .
I try and look at myself & siblings how could people have helped us as children and a family . When all these abusers are connected there will be more than likely never a conviction so these children what can we give them knowing the abuse will not stop ? I'm just at a loss aside from prayer . I do know as a child I beleive posative people helped me , I would often focus on them and thier lives kept me going . Be it people in history like great authors or religious figures etc. or in my real life I had some great teachers etc. so maybe If I say just a few small posative words when meeting an abused child maybe I can in some way pass on that hope .

Colleen said...

Rox, it must be terribly frustrating to know someone is a child abuser and you can't get a conviction or even protect the children. That thought is just making me angry! I said to someone else today, if we have to fight a war, let's fight this one and save the children!
As for how to help the child, - I agree that the people I remember most from my childhood were the people who reached out to me in some way. I had one teacher who made a big difference in my life, if only for a day.