The newsfeed of every media platform is a trigger stream for survivors of sexual violence right now. Between the Nassar case, the ME, TOO movement and the many examples of systemic violence against women and girls with which we are being confronted on a daily basis, many survivors, even the most long-term survivors among us, are feeling confronted and disrupted by the seemingly endless stream of examples of that violence. You are not alone. None of us need ever be alone.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence and you are feeling confronted, triggered or disrupted by the steady stream of examples of that violence currently flooding the newsfeed, please allow me to offer or remind you of a FEW TOOLS that may be of benefit as you find your way back to yourself:
1. Go easy on yourself. Self-blame is the abuse internalized.
2. Breathe. Focus on your breath. Feel your body inhaling and exhaling. Close your eyes if it helps you to focus. Try a meditation app like CALM if your thoughts are wild-horsing in your head.
3. Walk, gently. Move gently. Exercise gently. Anytime you catch yourself exercising to push yourself, remind yourself that gentle care is what you need right now.
4. Get back in your body by doing things that reassure you that you are safe in your body. Use your senses to support your sense of safety.
5. Speak out loud the names and colors of 5 things in the room around you. Identify your surroundings to remind yourself that you are right here in THIS moment and that you SAFE in this moment.
6. If you do not feel safe in this moment, ask yourself what you most need to feel safe and then do everything you can to give yourself what that is, as long as it supports you and does not further harm you.
7. Step away from the triggers as you can. Turn your phone notifications off. Step away from Facebook. Do not watch testimonies that cause you to lose sense of time in the moment.
8. Reach out to someone you trust, and ask that trusted person if he or she can sit with you or listen to you for 10 minutes, or longer, if you need it. Ask for support, and be specific in your asking about what that support looks like in the moment.
9. If you feel as if you are in danger, or if you feel as if you may harm yourself or that you can’t sit with yourself alone in the pain or fear of the moment, reach out to a resource for support. See the listing below of International Resources for Survivors of both Sexual and Domestic Violence.
10. Time alone and silence can help ground us, but do not isolate for too long. Isolation gets harder to break the longer you are stay in it alone.
11.Reach out to someone who reminds you of who you are in your fullness beyond your history and allow their presence to remind you of all that you are now, beyond the experiences that made you a survivor.
12. Write a list of 5 examples of your strength, courage and resiliency.
(For example: I took my abuser/assailant to court. I go to therapy or group counseling weekly. I can sleep with the light off most nights now. A list of 5 symbols of your strength, no matter how small or insignificant any symbol may feel.
13. Movement helps. If you can’t exercise, walk or dance or go swing on swings or sit in the sun or stretch your body by extending your arms over your head or behind your back to make more room in your body for you, to move the fear or the grief or the sadness or the anger.
14. Break things or burn things that you do not need, safely. Go throw cracked coffee cups against a concrete wall. Start a fire in your fireplace and burn whatever feels attached to old energy that pains you. Give your anger and/or grief a way to move through your body in ways that do not harm or jeopardize your sense of safety or self.
15. Reach out to another survivor and let her or him know that you are thinking of them. Go have tea or a cocktail together, or go see a movie together or make a meal together. Or simply touch base with one another once a day as a check in for both of you to know that you are not alone and that someone else is present with you.
If you are in need of additional support around issues of either sexual and or domestic violence, please see this extensive listing of International Resources for Survivors. Again, please reach out to the people around you and to the appropriate programs for support and assistance.
If you are a survivor, I know that you already know how to tend to yourself when you’re feeling triggered, just as I also know that the last few days have put many of us survivors over the edge, including the most long-term and seasoned survivors among us. Some of us are struggling to remember the techniques that we know to take care of ourselves when we are triggered. This is the deal of being triggered – we may need to be reminded of those tools that we can use to ground ourselves back into this moment, where we can foster a sense of safety and trust in our lives and in ourselves again.
I can tell you this much: If you are struggling, you are not alone. I can also tell you with some small degree of certainty that you are far stronger than you may probably give yourself credit for, especially when you are feeling triggered. I can also remind you that it is OKAY to be struggling right now and struggling alone does not need to be a sign of your strength. HOW we respond to our needs and ourselves while we are struggling is where our power lies, moment by moment.
Remember that sometimes sharing your story doesn’t help you but actually helps the person you are telling. We can be present with one another in even this, and that ability and willingness to be present for and with ourselves and with other survivors is part of how we grow stronger and also part of how the world changes, step-by-step, voice-by-voice.
You survived. You are beautiful. You are a badass. We need you and your voice and your presence, so please take care of yourself and stay with us. I am sending so much love to all of you, to every last survivor among us who is strong and brave and resilient enough to live this moment and to choose to keep loving him or herself through it.
All peace to each one of you.