"Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you" -Misty Copeland
Many of us are taught that incidences of interpersonal violence are a private matter that should not be discussed with others. This mindset enables abuse and violence to go unchecked and isolates survivors by not giving them the support they need to heal and thrive. A part of Starts With Youth's mission is to change this mindset and create a community that no longer shies away from conversations about abuse!
Here are some ways to support a friend who is currently experiencing any form of abuse:
Be there for them by acknowledging that they are in a very difficult and scary situation and that the abuse is not their fault.
Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is support and help out there, including yourself.
Be supportive and listen, as what they need the most is someone who will believe them.
Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.
Help them develop a safety plan by providing them with some resources that they can use.
Check-in with your friend to see how they are doing. Ask them if they want to join you in an activity.
When a friend discloses their experience of abuse, it is often extremely difficult to know what to do or say. You may even feel nervous or scared. Disclosure of abuse takes a whole lot of courage and is a great act of trust.
Here are some tips for supporting a survivor when they disclose their experience with you:
Listen to the survivor.
Affirm the survivor and their experience by speaking with empathy.
Validate their feelings, for example, “Thank you for sharing with me. Everything you are feeling right now is valid, and I am here for you.”
Try your best to understand the way the survivor is feeling. Practice empathy, not sympathy, and put yourselves in the abuse survivor's shoes.
Be informed by learning what abuse is and how it affects victims.
Provide them with resources for guidance and help.
Reassure them that you are on their side and support them.
Although you may want to help the survivor, disclosure can be a traumatic moment for yourself. It becomes difficult to support your friend or loved one when you are struggling with the news yourself. Feelings of disbelief, confusion, anger, sadness, blaming yourself are all common reactions to hearing about a friend’s experience.
Here are some tips to help yourself when a friend or loved one discloses their abuse:
Speaking to a professional can help you gain an understanding of the situation.
Speaking to a professional can also help in your efforts to support the survivor.
Reach out to someone you may want to talk to for support and guidance.
Check-in with yourself regularly and engage in self-care. Activities such as journalling, meditation, and exercise can help you ground yourself.
Being a supportive friend for someone who is or has experienced abuse is one of the many ways to help them begin their journey to healing. Here at Starts With Youth, we work to raise awareness about childhood abuse and trauma and to foster safe spaces for survivors. If you are a survivor, please know that your experiences are valid. You are seen, and you are heard. Your today doesn’t have to be your tomorrow.
Written By: Dayna