3 Ways to Be A Community That Cares
Experiences of violence, control and recurring sexual abuse create a world in which survivors of sexual exploitation feel no one can understand them or their pain. Just as veterans live with the mark of war, and prisoners of war live with the memories of torment, those that have gone through severe trauma feel cut off from the rest of humanity because of what happened to them.
Re-connection and reintegration into a caring and supportive community steps into this shame and isolation that the survivor experiences, and in that connection, brings healing. In my process of recovery from sexual exploitation, I know first-hand the important role community plays in healing. I have been harmed and helped in communities; the difference between them was how they cared.
Caring well starts with the experience of empathy and compassion. This is the stage in which a group of individuals is willing to be influenced by the stories of survivors of violence. However, those emotional responses can draw a community into action, or drive them into a sense of hopelessness if the information received does not give adequate tools or direction about what can be done to help.
Let’s face it, none of us really know what to do with the depth of evil in this world. When we encounter it, it is overwhelming, shocking and disorienting. In her book, “Trauma and Recovery,” Judith Herman talks about how the reality of trauma is one that we all struggle to sit with and therefore want to deny. Yet denial plays into the hand of the perpetrators, leaving their victims feeling continually “othered” in the world.
In order to rewrite this story of isolation faced by survivors of trauma, we first need to become a community that cares well according to the following steps:
To be a community that cares well, we must be willing to sit with the reality of trauma. This can mean acknowledging our own experience with abuse, trauma and loss; or connecting with the story of a friend or relative and listening to and validating their experience.
We must educate ourselves about how to help without unintentionally bringing harm. This includes reading the biographies of survivors, and books about how trauma impacts us as humans. We can also make an effort to learn about the reality of slavery in our world through related organizations in our communities.
We take risks, we reach out, we make mistakes - but we never let that stop us from caring. We follow hope into unknown territory, believing that a survivor's story doesn’t have to end with what they experienced. We make ourselves available, listening without trying to fix, and open the doors of our resources of time, money, and presence.
Every individual that cares well is one more that is joining a community that desires to see dignity restored in lives harmed by trafficking. If you are wondering where to start, start with where you are - learn and grow. Also, choose to be part of organizations and their initiatives, like our Dressember challenge. No matter what your part is, it is important.
Just reading this article shows that you care about the issue of slavery in our world today; you care well for the stories of others. As a survivor, I say, “Thank you.” Thank you for being willing to be emotionally impacted and moved, to have your worldview challenged, and for taking risks without turning away from the evil in this world.
About the Author
Grace is a survivor of human trafficking that is working on a degree in professional psychology. She is passionate about being a part of movement to end slavery by providing trauma-informed services to fellow survivors after her schooling is finished. She also is an avid reader, loves to create art and music, play with animals, and take note of the little bits of beauty that make up ordinary life.