December 26, 2017
The holidays can bring up all kinds of emotions. If someone close to you shares with you that they have had an experience of abuse or violence, it can be shocking, and often it’s difficult to know what to say. If it happens, here are some ways you can help:
1. Listen compassionately and without judgment, even when you disagree or don’t understand
Know that trauma— both the experience itself and how its impact stays with us— can be challenging to communicate clearly to others. Be patient.
2. Let them guide the conversation
Try not to interrupt, even though you may be feeling anxious to take action. Asking yes or no questions might force them into an area they don’t want to discuss. Instead, ask open-ended questions and let them decide how they want to answer.
3. Don’t make assumptions about how they feel or what their needs are
You can offer options, but avoid telling them what they “should” do, even with good intentions. Instead, ask how you can be helpful.
4. Remember that healing is a complex process
Their experience may be affecting them in ways that might not make sense to you, but are very clear to them. The effects of trauma are both mental and physical, and they are far more complex to overcome than, “Try not to think about it,” or “Just let it go,” even if it occurred a long time ago.
5. Check in with them later, and keep in mind that they may not feel like talking at the time
It’s important to let them know that you care, but not to go so far as to make them feel fussed over, or like they are a problem that needs to be managed.
Please know that you and your loved one are not alone. If you need to talk, we’re here to listen.
Safe Horizon’s Hotlines operate 24 hours a day, including on holidays. Your call is confidential. Whether you’re in crisis or you’re unsure if your experience constitutes abuse, violence, or crime, we’re here to help. Call 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) to speak with an advocate today or visit our Hotlines page for more information.