If you know us or have followed Shining Light you know, that our Executive Director, Flo DeVaul-Dudley's story is the reason that we exist.
Upon meeting Flo I had no idea about her story nor what she had been through since childhood. I just saw a beautiful and selfless woman. As time went on she felt that I provided her a safe and non-judgmental space to share about her past trauma.
Our journey together has been one filled with ups and downs as Flo began to heal. During this journey, I’ve learned a few things. Based on my time supporting Flo, here are 10 ways that I found to support her that you might find helpful. It’s important to remember that there is no one “right” way to do this – every survivor’s needs and heals differently. However, there are some general things you can keep in mind that may be helpful.
1. Believe them. It can be difficult for survivors to talk about their experiences, and it’s crucial that you believe them when they do open up to you. Avoid asking probing questions or making assumptions about what they could have done differently – instead, simply let them know that you believe them and support them.
2. Listen to them. Let your loved one dictate the conversation – don’t try to force them to talk about things they’re not ready to share, and don’t press for details if they don’t want to give them. Just let them know that you’re there for them and willing to listen whenever they need to talk.
3. Respect their privacy. It’s important to respect your loved one’s privacy and not pressure them into sharing details of their experience with people who they don’t feel comfortable talking to. If they do want to share their story with others, let them decide who those people will be and how much information they want to divulge.
4. Avoid making assumptions about their healing process. Every survivor heals in their own way and on their own timeline – avoid putting pressure on your loved one by telling them how they “should” be feeling or acting. Instead, simply be there for them as they work through their trauma in whatever way makes sense for them.
5. Offer practical help. Many survivors need help with everyday tasks like running errands, cooking meals, or taking care of children while they heal from their experiences. Ask your loved one what kinds of practical assistance they need and offer to help out in whatever way you can.
6. Be patient with them. This is something I personally had to work extremely hard on as I wanted to be the fixer. But, healing from sexual assault or domestic violence is a long and difficult process, so it’s important to be patient with your loved one as they work through it. Avoid getting frustrated if they seem like they’re “not moving on fast enough” – instead, simply offer your ongoing support and understanding as they continue down the road to recovery.
7. Educate yourself about sexual assault and domestic violence. The more you understand about sexual assault and domestic violence, the better equipped you’ll be to support your loved one through their experience. Read books, articles, and blog posts on the subject; watch documentaries and movies; attend workshops or training sessions; and conversate with other people who are also educating themselves about these issues.
8. Find local resources. There are likely many local resources available to help survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, such as crisis hotlines, therapy programs, support groups, legal aid services, etc. Do some research and find out what resources are available in your area so you can connect your loved one with the help they need.
9. Stand up against victim-blaming. Victim-blaming is all too common in our society, especially when it comes to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. If you hear someone making victim-blaming comments, speak up! We all play a role in ending victim-blaming culture, so it’s important that we challenge these harmful attitudes whenever we encounter them.
10. Donate time or money. If you want to do more to support survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence but don’t know how, consider donating your time or money to Shining Light In darkness or another local organization that helps these individuals. This is a great way to make a tangible difference in the lives of those who have been affected by these issues.
Survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence need plenty of love, respect, patience, and practical assistance as they heal from their trauma. However, each survivor is different, so it’s important to let them take the lead in terms of deciding what kind of support they need from you.
The most important thing you can do is simply be there for them throughout their healing journey.