“ I’m here for you” the most valuable words you can say to a survivor.
“At least it’s over now”,
“Now you can just forget about it and move on”, “Just put it all out of your mind”,
“Don’t worry about it”,
“At least he/she/they are still young enough to forget it”….. all of these things get said to survivors of abuse and to their non-offending parents or carers at some point.
The people saying them are normally very caring people who really do want the best for the people they are talking to – they simply don’t realise though how words like that can hurt.
Whether you are supporting children through the aftermath of abuse, or supporting an adult, it’s important to understand just how deeply their trauma has affected them and how it will continue to do so.
Of course, by all means remind them that there is a future for them, that they can and will move forward but please don’t ask or expect them to just forget what has happened or to “stop thinking about it”. As with grief and other forms of trauma in life, they have experienced a life changing set of circumstances.
They need time to process that and adjust to their “new normal”, no matter how much they want to move forward, no matter how strong they are, they still need that time and your understanding and they will still have times when the memories, triggers and flashbacks overwhelm them.
Please note though, that this is not in any way meant to attack those people who have used the words listed at the start of this post or words similar to them. If you have done that, good on you for caring, for saying something rather than just turning away.
I have spoken to many parents and carers of children who have been abused, and I have been there myself and one common thing that gets said is just how alone, confused and frightened it can make you feel. The children of course are feeling all of that and so much more, and their needs and emotions, like ours, will change often. It can be very frustrating, it can be heart breaking, it can make you angry and it can make you just want to give up. It does get better but it never really goes away, it gets woven into the fabric of who we are and we can actually find ways to let that strengthen us, but the time and understanding of others are vital.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to support children through this or you find that someone you care about is facing that horror and you don’t know what to say, it’s okay to tell them that. A simple “I don’t know what to say but I am here for you” can literally save a life. (GE)
Photo credit to the awesome The Blueboys .. so cute
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