In order to give me comfort people will say things like: It will all turn out for the better. God will not give you more than you can handle. You must have a really strong spirit because you are being tried so much. I know that these people mean well. But when one looks at these clichés it is plain that they don’t really hold truth in them or comfort.
Look at the world around you. Three in every ten women here in the US have suffered some form of sexual assault. These statistics are for our westernized country with laws that are intended to bring justice and protection to the people. What about third world countries? Or countries where women are treated as lower class citizens? In these countries rape and incest are a way of life. The facts are most victims in this world will not heal in this lifetime. Most will live self destructive lives constantly weighed down by the heavy burden of abuse. Most of these people live in broken systems where victims’ rights are not valued and perpetrators are in control
When I hear rosy predictions that assume everything will turn out ok in the end. My mind knows that a happy ending is not inevitable. It is not a given that everything will turn out ok. Statistically it is more likely I will live a life slave to my victimization, than it is that I will heal. Statistically a rosy picture is not in my future.
In the LDS and Christian communities it is a given that incest is one of the worst possible sins a person can commit. This is such a strongly ingrained belief that just the word incest makes most people feel sick to their stomach. So while the word carries so much disgust and discomfort why is it that healing and “getting over it” is socially treated as a given, as something easy that just automatically happens?
Let me tell you what automatically happens. One of two things. Victims will either rebel against our society, that still favors the perpetrators and judges the victim. They will live a life full of failed abusive relationships, while chasing addictions. Or the victim will live a life of pretend. Now, I can feel some victims getting mad, as I say the word pretend. Because that is not how we think of it. We honestly want to be normal. We don’t fully understand how strongly the abuse affects our everyday lives. So we do everything we can to follow the system, keep in line, and basically look good. We will tell you we are doing good, and we are fine, when our standard for life is emotional pain and suffering we are trying to run from. While healing past these realities is not automatic, it is possible.
The facts are abuse is devastating. Abuse corrodes societies. Abuse destroys lives. Abuse wrecks hope. Abuse is devastating. Healing is not a given, it is not automatic, it is not easy. Most people won’t heal. Most stories won’t have a happy ending.
If you learn of a victim/ survivor of abuse and are not sure what to do or say in that awkward social moment where you want to give comfort but don’t know how to, here are some ideas. Let their hurt be real. Let it be valid. Tell them you are sorry they have been hurt so badly. Sympathize with their struggles. Understand that they are fighters and are fighting against a lot. Understand their trial is real. Honestly that is probably something we long for the most. Someone to just believe us, someone to just believe that this is hard. Someone to help us feel valid in our deep pain and struggle. And maybe if you give us room to be hurt we will be able to stand on our feet with confidence, and know our hurt is real. Once the pain is validated, we can then start to soothe it, heal it, and grow beyond it. But growth and a new life will never come until the pain is real.