I recently learned that a relative of mine and her family have recently gone through some life experiences that are truly horrifying and possibly about as painful as life can get. I learned about it because they decided to go public with it to protect them-selves and others from further victimization.
My heart goes out to them, and I offered a few words of support but honestly they are far away and not part of my daily life so there is little I can actually do for them. What really saddened me was that part of their story was the fact that many members of their church turned away from the when they learned about what had happened, either by avoiding them or trying to blame them for what happened in some way. I got the impression these were the first people they believed they could rely on in troubled times for love and support.
I can understand how this happens. When someone has such a life shattering experience which is both terrifying and strange, it scares the hell out of folks. Their instinct is to put as much distance between them and the danger as possible and they do that by running or getting hostile with anyone “infected” by the events. They would like to unheard what they have heard and pretend it never happened.
For the victim, I think there is a lot to be gained by speaking out and revealing the truth of their experience to others. Crimes like these can make you feel great shame and leave you feeling as if you are just as monstrous as the person committing the crimes and since reactions like those above are common, you risk losing a lot of friends. But what getting it out there does, is make you feel more normal, less of a monster, more of a person. I think it is often the first step to overcoming or at least coping with the problem. I think it is both smart and brave.
What brave people deserve and what they need most are other brave souls, those who will share their own secrets and those who will stand by them despite their own fears. Solidarity is critical to feeling accepted and loved which is critical to feeling human. Hearing someone’s story, acknowledging it, and then treating them normally goes a long way to helping them actually feel normal again and I think when tragedy strikes, normal is what folks desire most.
So if someone you love is showing strength, show them strength back and don’t run away. I was happy to see that many of their friends did exactly that and it gives me hope their lives will heal in time.