October 8, 2018
Written by Angela Mancuso, executive director at The Women's Center
October is here, and with the changing of the season comes an important time: Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM).
DVAM, observed every year in October, is an opportunity to come together as a community to talk about these issues, to understand them better, to share our resources, and most importantly, to support and stand with survivors. Domestic violence is a grossly underreported crime that affects thousands in our community. We all have a role to play in breaking the cycle of violence.
This year, The Women’s Center’s theme for the month is “Take Action. Support Survivors. End Domestic Violence Now.”
I often get asked how someone can support a friend or loved one who discloses violence or trauma to them. It can be difficult for a survivor to disclose any part of their experience with others. If someone comes to you for support, start by believing them. You can’t take away what happened to someone, but you can listen to them, believe them, and be a source of comfort.
Some things you can say to someone who has been impacted by domestic or sexual violence:
- “I believe you.” The most important thing to do when supporting a survivor is validate their experience. Let them know you believe them.
- “It wasn’t your fault.” It is essential that a survivor understand they are not responsible for their assault or abuse. Be a supportive voice and remind them that they are not to blame.
- “I’m sorry this happened to you.” Mindful language is key: let survivors know that what happened was unacceptable, and that you take their experience and feelings seriously.
- “Can I help?” Let survivors know you are there to support them without being forceful. This allows survivors power of choice on whether to seek out your help.
- “What do you need most right now?” Give the survivor space to decide what comes next; there is no single right or wrong way for a survivor to respond to an assault or abuse.
It takes a lot of courage for a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault to share their story with anyone. Never underestimate the power you have to affect the course of a survivor’s healing journey. Our 24-Hour Hotline is available always at 262.542.3828.
For more information about our events during DVAM and ways you can get involved this month and throughout the year, visit www.twcwaukesha.org.