You are not alone:
If you have been affected by the #metoo campaign, well, you already know, you are not alone.
As a psychotherapist and counsellor in the Sydney, Australia area I have personally witnessed the campaign effects as nearly every client in my practice has brought an uncomfortable story, an anxious response, and even a first disclosure of being sexually harassed and assaulted.
There are significant shifts taking place as our recognition of rape culture increases. With this awakening comes increased responsibility to our victims as well as increased culpability to those who have quieted, betrayed, stigmatized and shamed them. As we begin to sort the damage done to our children, friends and families we first need to offer our assistance to those seeking help today.
If you know of somebody who has been victimized and is having some difficulty during this campaign you may have some questions about how best to support them.
3 Ways to Support Somebody During The #metoo Campaign:
1- Let them talk/ Encourage them to talk
Let your friends and family know they are safe sharing their story with you. Don’t judge circumstances and please recognize your own bias on this issue.
It’s important to be patient and compassionate. Some people have never told their story. Having a witness to internal pain is an enormous healing experience and they may need some time to organize what’s going on for them. Giving support and providing the platform to tell their story makes their traumatic memories less ‘messy’. Talking can start the process of helping them organize their memories around the trauma, thus assisting them in making sense of the memories; the secrecy starts to fade, they may blame themselves less, and they may even feel a little bit more in control of the experience. Allow them this privilege. Just listen while they talk.
2- Be comfortable with messy emotions
There is no right way to disclose trauma. Just go with wherever they are. Be careful about the subtle ways you manage or shut off other people’s emotions. If they are crying just hold their hand or support them in any way that doesn’t shut them down. Instead of saying “It’s alright,” (because it obviously is not,) maybe you say “I’m right here.”
Be comfortable in whatever way they tell their story. If they use humor, let it be. If they cry the entire way through, manage your fears around hot emotions. They have been told their entire lives to keep a secret. Don’t be one more person who is unable or unwilling to see or hear their story.
3- Be the support person, not the problem solver
Before anybody was paying attention to the #metoo campaign, your friend or family member probably devised a million scenarios of how they can solve the situation. They may well need some advice, but today your job is to just support them in whatever way they ask.
When confronted with hot emotions it’s often our default to problem solve instead. Problem solving is of course done with love, but can also act as a subtle cue to stop people from telling their story or experiencing the uncomfortable feelings. Remember, first and foremost, we are here to witness and to listen. You will know when the time comes to problem solve because they will specifically ask this of you.
If you or somebody you love has experienced sexual trauma currently being brought up by the #metoo campaign, you are not alone. And you don’t have to be alone.
Look for help. Confide in a trusted friend or family member. Think about addressing your painful experience with a professional counsellor or psychologist. If you decide to search out a counselor or psychologist, search for one who is trauma informed and who specializes in dealing with the aftermath of trauma. Look for a therapist who has experience working with PTSD, anxiety, and hopefully provides EMDR (a type of treatment for trauma.)
Thousands of women and men are sharing their experiences of being harassed or abused. You are not alone. And there are many people who want to help.