Sunday, September 23
By Sarah Thompson
When it comes to sexual violence, trauma and recovery, it is never too late to tell someone. How we respond to survivors can have a profound influence on their resilience and recovery. Here is what survivors of sexual and domestic violence need to hear: It was not your fault. If someone made the evil decision to hurt you, that was their fault. No matter how many times you think about what happened or how, it was not your fault. You can and should tell anyone you want. No matter if it is an hour after you were hurt or a hundred years. Truth is truth, and you have the right to speak yours.
There are many of us who will listen to you, who will hear you, who are sorry that it happened to you. Some of us because it happened to us as well. Some of us because we have big hearts and open eyes and see how screwed up our culture is that lets this happen over and over again. Know this: we are in your places of worship and kids schools and grocery stores. We are in your college classes, at work, your child’s basketball camp, and standing next to you on the soccer field. You are surrounded by people who will listen and believe you.
There are numerous reasons someone might not tell the story of a sexual assault right away. Some of them are rooted in the neurobiology of trauma: the things that happen in our brains and bodies when we are overwhelmed by violations. Some of us didn’t tell because we were afraid of hurting the people we loved. Or we were afraid that the people who loved us; our dads, our mothers, might kill the person who had hurt us. Some of us didn’t tell because we were afraid we or our loved ones would be hurt. Some of us did tell, but we were not believed, or worse, we were blamed. Or we were asked too many questions to which we did not have answers. And it was a long time before we tried telling again.
Some of us didn’t tell because we couldn’t find the words. Sometimes that help came from people who loved and believed us. Sometimes it came from skilled professionals who understand how trauma works and how humans heal. Some of us didn’t tell because we could not bear to bring the scrutiny of a victim-blaming culture into our most vulnerable moment.
Whenever we talk about violence, survivors are listening. By not being willing to listen, to support, to affirm, we collude with the perpetrators and become part of the culture of violence. We stand with and for survivors. It is never too late to tell.
Sarah Thompson, LPC is Old St. Pat’s parish counselor and is available for counseling. She has an office at the Fr. Jack Wall Mission Center, 711 W. Monroe with day and evening hours and offers a sliding scale. Contact Sarah at 773.234.9630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.