What do we do if someone close discloses their experience of abuse to us? It can be an overwhelming, painful thing to hear. You may experience feelings of helplessness, sadness, anxiety, anger. All are okay. You may not know how to respond or what to do. This is normal.
Abuse can take many forms – sexual, physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, etc. The act of abuse is intended to take control or power over another person or thing. Each victim or survivor of abuse has their own way of reacting and coping with their experience. It is important to give them the space for what they need during their time of disclosure, healing process, and accessing support.
We have put together some brief tips and strategies to turn to if someone in your life discloses their experience of abuse to you. There are also Okanagan-based resources attached to this post.
Offer empathy, active listening, and understanding.
E.g., “I can only imagine how difficult this is to share. I am here for you.”
Give them the power.
Allow them to share what feels right for them.
E.g., “Tell me as much as you are comfortable with.”
Let them tell you how you can be of help to them.
“What would be helpful for you right now?”
Allow space for pain responses.
Someone who has been abused or assaulted is likely not able to take their anger and pain out on their abuser. These emotions may surface around those they love. Give them the space to express these difficult emotions.
“I see your anger and pain. I want to be a safe place for you express everything you’re feeling”.
If they are willing to access support or resources, and would like your help, walk alongside them in accessing this help in your city (some Okanagan-based resources are listed here).
“I am here to walk alongside you and access whatever (if any) support you’re looking for.”
Remember: to be a support to someone who is suffering is to walk alongside them, offer them space to share what they need, and support them in the way that feels right for them. Listen, avoid judgment, offer validation and affirmation, and create a space between you that feels safe.
Archway Society for Domestic Peace: https://archwaysociety.ca/
Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society: www.efryokanagan.com
Kelowna Women’s Shelter: www.kelownawomensshelter.com
Child Advocacy Centre: www.cackelowna.com
Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society: www.kfs.bc.ca/
Do you have any feedback/questions on this article? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know. We'd love to continue learning with you :)