Resources

Created by Evy Yeager, TraumaRoot

for Spitting In The Face Of The Devil

 

How to Support Someone

 

When we think that someone close to us is in danger, we want to get involved. Strong social connections can be a critical source of support. But sometimes the questions we ask are judgemental of our loved one’s decisions. We can accidentally misplace blame on them, instead of on the abusive person. Questions beginning with, “Why didn’t you...” usually fall into this category. Here are three of these commonly-asked questions, and some helpful perspective on the answers.

 

Why Didn’t You...?

 

Leave as soon as things got bad?

Even when your physical safety is threatened, leaving an abuser is a complex decision. In some moments, trying to leave can increase the risk of further abuse. The survivor knows the most about their situation, and what feels safe or not safe for them. In cases of domestic abuse, deciding what to do is rarely simple.

 

  • The financial risks of leaving an abusive situation can be as serious as hunger or homelessness.
  • Emotional abuse can damage confidence and self-worth. Abusers can communicate that the survivor deserves to be treated this way, or that they are unlikely to find a better relationship.
  • When the abuser is a loved one, the hope for a better future or keeping a family together can be very strong. This is especially true when the abuse is subtle or new.

 

Call the police?

Calling the police can be helpful in many situations, but not always. Abusers frequently rely on keeping the abuse a secret. They can build a strong social network so that their “good reputation” is not likely to be questioned. Their abusive behavior can worsen when they feel that someone has challenged their power or authority.

 

Make peace with the person who abused you?

Every family experiences challenging relationships, but not all are alike. The effects of a traumatic environment, like living with someone who is abusive, can be intense and long-lasting. An important feature of recovering from trauma is feeling safe. Engaging with an abusive person can hinder both safety and recovery. A survivor should not be forced to engage with the person who hurt them.

 

If you believe that an adult in your life is experiencing abuse, and you want to offer support, try these tips:

 

  1. Understand that your view of the situation will probably be different from theirs. The goal of your conversation should be to help them feel heard and supported. Don’t try to convince them to agree with your views and perceptions.
  2. Remember that they know more about their situation than you do. Ask, “How can I help?” or “What do you need?”
  3. Ask open-ended questions, not yes-or-no questions. For example, “What do you want to do?” instead of “Don’t you think you should _____?”
  4. Give affirmations, not suggestions. For example, “You deserve to feel safe,” instead of, “You should _____ if they’re out of control.” If they seem open to your input, offer options without making decisions for them.
  5. Remember that your impact is much more powerful than your intent. Every survivor is doing the best they can to manage a terrible situation. Express your concern in a nonjudgmental way. Consider your words carefully, and avoid implying that they’re doing something wrong.

 

If you believe that a child or teen in your life is experiencing abuse, and you want to offer support, call the National Child Abuse Hotline to learn what steps you can take, specific to your situation. All calls are confidential.

 

 

1 (800) 4-A-Child or 1 (800) 422-4453

 

Learn to recognize common signs of child abuse:

 

  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Withdrawing from social interaction
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Fear of going certain places, or being around certain people
  • Changes in academic performance or ability to concentrate
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Aggressive behavior or unusually emotional reactions
  • Avoiding or seeking unusual amounts of physical contact

 

A key form of support for a child survivor of abuse is having stable, nurturing relationships. The most important thing you can do is to be present.

 

Facts & Stats

 

Sexual Abuse of Children

“One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.”

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Many children and teenagers don’t yet have a clear understanding of what happened to them. They might not have words to describe their experience. It can even be hard to recognize harm or danger. Sexual abuse can sometimes involve some positive feelings, like emotional connection or physical feelings. This can be deeply confusing.

 

As a child or teenager, confronting the abuser can be difficult or impossible. It is very common to adapt to the reality of the abuse, rather than to challenge it.

 

Physical Abuse of Children

In instances of child abuse, about 4 out of 5 abusers are the child’s parents.

National Children’s Alliance

No one wants to believe that a parent would hurt their own child. However, abusers are usually caregivers.

 

Pedophilia & Homosexuality

“Sexual abuse is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the abusive person.”

1 in 6

There is no single type of person who abuses children. Abusers include people of all genders, identities and orientations. The same is true for survivors of abuse. In the past, pedophilia and homosexuality have been wrongly connected. This is an outdated and damaging misconception. Sexual abuse of children is not primarily an expression of sexual desire. Abuse is an attempt to gain power.

 

Domestic Abuse & Financial Abuse

More than 9 out of 10 domestic abuse situations include financial abuse.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Abuse doesn’t have to be physical to be damaging, or long-lasting. By controlling access to money, abusers can control many other aspects of life. Some examples include:

  • independence
  • self-worth
  • social connections
  • transportation
  • education
  • ability to care for children
  • access to basic necessities like food and healthcare

 

Domestic Abuse & Guns

In a domestic abuse situation, a gun makes homicide 5 times more likely.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

A gun can cause harm without ever being loaded or fired. Just by having a deadly weapon, an abuser can gain control over others.

 

Domestic Abuse & Psychological Abuse

For many people, psychological abuse is more likely than physical abuse to cause PTSD.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

The effects of trauma on the brain and body create many barriers to safety and recovery. Psychological abuse can have the most long-lasting impact.

 

Mental and physical health are closely connected. Trauma can weaken the immune system. It can also bring a greater risk of physical health problems. In some cases, trauma can cause structural changes in the brain. Research has shown that both mental and physical effects of trauma are reversible, with time and (formal or informal) treatment.

 

Understanding Trauma

Trauma is extremely common, but it is not well understood. Here are 3 things to know:

  1. Trauma is an experience or environment that overwhelms our ability to cope with the situation. It creates a survival response in our brains and bodies. Child abuse and domestic abuse are both very likely to be traumatic.
  2. Trauma is unique to each person. Two people can experience the same traumatic event or environment, and have very different reactions to it.
  3. Whether the trauma itself is physical or psychological (or both), trauma affects both our brains and our bodies. The effects can last long after the threat has passed, but they are not necessarily permanent. There are many evidence-based ways to address and recover from trauma.

 

Traumatic Events vs. Traumatic Environments

We tend to think of trauma in terms of specific events: an assault, an accident, or a natural disaster. There are also traumatic environments: human trafficking, domestic abuse, or systemic racism. The effects of traumatic environments can be much more difficult to overcome, because the threat is ongoing. A key part of recovering from trauma is safety. When establishing safety is more challenging, so is recovery.

 

Trauma & Memory

When we experience trauma, our brains and bodies change in an instant. We focus on anything that will help us to survive. In exchange, our bodies and brains pause some of their regular activities, including the storing of memories. When we remember a traumatic experience, some details may stand out very clearly. Others may blur or fade

completely. In the moments of trauma, our brains focus on the details that help us react and stay safe, while ignoring other details.

 

When we tell a non-traumatic story, we tend to follow the events in the order they happened. When we recall trauma, the sensory details (like smells and sounds) are much clearer than their timing.

 

Numbness is one of many survival responses that our bodies can use. It is an instinct that keeps us safe. Numbness can last long after the traumatic experience has happened.

 

Recovering from a traumatic experience is complex and challenging. Whatever you are working through, know that the way your body and brain has responded to trauma is beyond your control, and you are not at fault. Abuse is never your fault. You are not alone, and help is available.

 

Please refer to our wonderful Partner Organizations

 

For further reading about trauma and recovery:

Trauma & Recovery, Judith Herman

The Deepest Well, Nadine Burke Harris

My Grandmother’s Hands, Resmaa Menakem

The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk

Copyright © 2020 JMTC Theatre. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2020 JMTC Theatre.

All rights reserved.