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
November 16, 2013 at 6:46 am
I want to share my story. How will I start?
November 16, 2013 at 7:00 am
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.
November 16, 2013 at 6:47 am
Great information on listening empathy with Survivors. Thanks for sharing.
November 16, 2013 at 7:03 am
We do our best to help survivors in any way we can 🙂
November 16, 2013 at 7:04 am
Thank you for the kind words
November 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm
November 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm
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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November 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm
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!
November 18, 2013 at 5:17 pm
Thank you Trudy and may blessings and peace be yours in that journey. Let us know if we might work together somehow! 🙂
November 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm
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.
November 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm
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.
November 21, 2013 at 10:45 am
Kudos to that brave minister!
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November 26, 2013 at 7:09 am
“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.
November 26, 2013 at 7:39 am
Thank you for the kind and insightful words. I was reminded recently of some other wise words my granddaddy once told me. “you have one mouth and two ears, use them proportionately”. 🙂
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December 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm
good post, reblogging – thanks
December 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm
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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December 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm
So true, time and patience. I agree. Thanks so much for sharing this.
Good and healing thoughts to you.
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