Monday, December 3, 2007

How can I help my survivor partner the best?

The best thing you can do for your partner is to take care of yourself. This holds true throughout the entire healing process. Often when I tell people this they say, “But I want to do something?” The fact of the matter is you cannot fix your partner. You are not helping them by trying to do everything for them or by trying to remove the triggers they may encounter in any given day. Remember the quickest way to get better is to go through the pain. By removing painful things from their path you are deterring their healing.

This does not mean that you have to sit on the sidelines and watch as the person you love walks through dark times. Here are some things that you can do to help:

· Educate yourself about rape and child sexual abuse. The more you know the better you will be able to support your partner. There are different stages of healing survivors face. It isn’t uncommon for survivors to get through one stage just to go back into again later. If you have information about what is happening within your home you will be better equipped to deal with it. A good jumping off point is the book Allies in Healing by Laura Davis. It has a wealth of information that you can refer back to at any given time.

· Communication is an important part of supporting a survivor. It is important that you talk to your partner and find out what they need from you. At this time you may want to come up with a plan for what to do when they are in crisis. Their needs will change from time to time. Keeping the lines of communication open will allow you to be a part of their healing process. However, give yourself a break if you are not able to meet their needs all the time. Life happens and learning to roll with the punches will allow you and your partner to create a better partnership.

· It is imperative you listen while communicating. You contribute to survivors’ fears by giving advice or telling a survivor that they shouldn’t feel a certain way. Survivors need to be heard. Their voices have been silenced. They are finding those voices through healing. You validate their feelings and allow them to be heard simply by listening. Often, that is all they need.

· Equally as important is that you also state your own needs. Survivors often need to feel in control of their surroundings. You can avoid confusion later giving your partner a clear understanding of what is expected of them. This also allows your partner to be responsible for themselves which builds self-confidence.

· You are not the only one who feels like your life has turned upside down. It gets better. Time and patience are the keys to your sanity. Try not to take things that your partner is doing or saying personally. More often than not you aren't why they are angry, sad, confused or embarrassed. Give them a little space and forgiveness and you will soon find out what was really going on.

· Get involved. This will help you to feel proactive. The fact is there is an epidemic among us and the only way to see change is to stand together and fight.

A note about who I am: My name is Jenn. I am a survivor and a partner of a survivor. As my partner is walking through her journey I have learned things that may help other partners along their own way. When we first started down this road I wanted desperately to not feel so alone. It is my hope to share with other partners so that no one ever has to feel as if their pain is unique again. It is important to me to be a part of breaking the silence that surrounds abuse of all kinds. You can see me continue the fight at: