Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A support person

Having supportive people in my life has been critical to my recovery. It wasn't until my husband (we were not married at the time) came alongside me and encouraged me to process through what I was feeling (anger, pain, abandonment, rejection, etc) with the focus being getting to the other side, that I finally felt strong enough to really examine what was going on. We all need a support person. This can be a friend, family member or counselor. You just need someone... For some people, this will mean actually asking someone to be your support. That may be an overwhelming idea, but it is a first step towards coming out of isolation and secret-keeping.

What does it mean to be a support person? It does not mean taking care of or being responsible for the survivor. The support person needs to care about and listen to the survivor without giving advice. A support person is not responsible for fixing the survivor or removing their pain. The support person will help the most by merely being available to the survivor as he/she learns to deal with the pain and with the results of the abuse. Supporters - ask your friend how you can help!

Here are some helpful DO's for supporters:
Support, accept, love, allow the survivor time to feel what they are feeling, be understanding, take an interest in their recovery, offer forgiveness when needed, believe them, pray for them and with them, encourage, trust them, offer validation.

Survivors of sexual abuse need open, honest, accepting communication. When you (the support person) do not know what to say or do, tell your friend and ask how you can help. Frequently, the answer will be that you just need to listen and support.

Survivors - know that this is complicated and possibly very unknown territory for your support people. Be willing to help them help you.

One last note... As you enlist support people, be aware that you may receive a wide range of responses. You will get positive and negative responses from those you ask to support you. Someone you really care about may not be able to do it. Accept this without taking it personally. The reasons could be: fear, schedule, other personal demands, feelings of inadequacy, personal recovery issues of their own, or other personal problems. Their inability to help you at this time is not about you or how they feel about you!

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