Together We Heal

Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. We provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal. We work to expose sexual predators and their methods of getting into our lives.

Do You Know How to Listen to a Survivor’s Story?

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As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and having heard the stories of so many others, common questions I hear are – Why does it feel like no one hears me? Or, Why does it seem like no one understands what I’m saying or cares to get it?

I recently spoke with a survivor whose abuse, just as mine, had occurred at the hands of a minister. He said to me in no uncertain terms, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to enter a church ever again because of what they have done to me. They denied it happened, they wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. They stole so much from me and when I cried out for help, I feel like no one hears me.”

It was a rare opportunity when one person can say to another, “I know how you feel”, and genuinely mean it. And I did know EXACTLY how he was feeling. For more than 25 years, unless someone died or got married, I didn’t darken the doors of a church. Like him, I felt betrayed, belittled, ignored, and no matter what I told the church leaders, not once did I feel like anyone was listening or cared.

That is until one day, when one brave minister had the courage of his conviction to stand up and defend me. But just as important, he took the time to listen and was patient with me.

And that’s what I have tried to relay to my friend and to so many other survivors. It only takes one person taking the time to stop for a moment and pay attention. To actually listen to what the survivor is telling you. You have no idea the IMPACT it has on our lives when someone finally says the three words we need so desperately…

“I hear you.”

Even if you don’t know or understand what we’ve been through, the fact that you’re taking time to listen makes all the difference in the world. It doesn’t take a degree in psychology or a license from the state to simply listen to a person in need. It does take some things more valuable though, time and patience.

Trust me when I say this, as a survivor of CSA, we don’t want pity or a pathetic look. All we want, all we need…is time and patience. Time; to hear what we need to share. Patience; to fully grasp what we’ve been through.

When those two precious commodities are given to us, it allows us to finally open up about what has snared our lives in turmoil and torture. It gives us the freedom to finally speak out about the atrocities committed against us. When given that chance, we finally have the one thing we lost as a child, Hope. And once there is hope, we now have within our reach the one thing we thought was incapable of attaining, Healing.

I wrote this article with two groups of people in mind. The first being those that know or will meet someone affected by the trauma of CSA. The second being my fellow survivors. If you are in the first group, PLEASE take a moment and give those invaluable gifts of time and patience. If you are my fellow survivor, WHEN someone affords you the opportunity to share, as challenging as I know it may seem, PLEASE be receptive to those gifts. We don’t often feel worthy of it, but believe me, you are.

When time and patience are combined, many beautiful and valuable assets are formed. As humans we look at items like diamonds and oil that require both and are valued in trillions of dollars. How much more so then, is the life of your fellow human when you give them the same care, and the same value. Time and patience, what’s it worth to you?

Copyright © 2013 Together We Heal

Author: Together We Heal

In 2006 David took the first step in a long and painful journey back from the abyss of addiction and self-destruction. He promised his dying father that he would get clean. And he did. But as he cleaned his body and soul, he began to confront the sexual abuse that his addiction had for so long obscured — abuse perpetrated by a church youth minister when David was 12 to 15 years old. Those three years of abuse destroyed the foundation of love and faith that had been built by his family. For 25 years, David kept the abuse secret and lost himself in a fog of drugs and alcohol. He was by turns destitute, at times incarcerated. The promise to his dying father was the catalyst. And the bedrock of his mother’s love and devotion was the foundation on which David rebuilt his life. Therapy, 12-step meetings, and soul-deep determination were the bricks and mortar. David founded Together We Heal to provide fellow survivors and their families, guidance through the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. In 2015 he was asked to become a part of the Child Safeguarding Initiative team with GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse. David represents Together We Heal & GRACE across the country as a public speaker and instructor; teaching churches, schools, and families how to talk with their kids about sexual abuse, how to better identify predatory behavior, and how to properly respond to those harmed. "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” - Dr. Seuss

24 thoughts on “Do You Know How to Listen to a Survivor’s Story?

  1. I want to share my story. How will I start?

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    • You may begin and write it any way you feel most comfortable. The only request I have is if you give graphic info, just put at the top *trigger warning* so other survivors of CSA will know it might trigger old wounds in them. But this is a safe place for all survivors of sexual abuse to share, learn and heal.

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  2. Great information on listening empathy with Survivors. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Thank you for sharing. As an advocate for victims I am always eager to learn how I can better stand with survivors.

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  4. Pingback: Do You Know How to Listen to a Survivor’s Story? | Flip It Right Side Up

  5. Bless those who dare to listen with their hearts. It seems a rare thing in most churches, and some even actively try to silence victims. I’ve dedicated my life to this battle and wish you (and all who share here) blessing in the healing journey!

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  6. Sometimes it is a matter of the right time to be ready and able to meet a person who is really listening to you.
    When someone is really listening to you then it really happened but you have enough strength/courage to let another know how terrible it was for you but also to yourself.

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  7. Thank you for sharing. As a Darkness to Light facilitator for 7 years I know the goals & the steps to share with trainees. As a trained forensic interviewer I know how to listen & question, but neither of these trainings address time & patience. I think these are are vital components and will certainly share them in my trainings & remember them in my interviews.

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  8. Kudos to that brave minister!

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  10. “Seek first to understand before being understood”-Covey Developed listening habits are essential to empathy and understanding. Combined with time and patience, we can best help those who need affirmation, validation, and understanding. Thank you again for the reminder to “listen” more and talk less.

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  12. Reblogged this on Trauma and Dissociation and commented:
    Do you know how to listen to a survivor’s story? The importance of empathy, not sympathy.

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  15. So true, time and patience. I agree. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

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