Tag: physical abuse

She’s a Little Runaway

I laid low for a little while, on my best behavior, after the social worker came by the house. The thought of being sent back to the small town Missouri high school of 400 after attending the exciting Arizona high school of 4000 terrified me. I had a new set of friends that I wanted to keep, even if I only got to see them at school.

I was no longer grounded, not that it mattered much, since I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere anyhow.

There had been no mending of the relationship between my father and me. As my bruised face healed, my pain was forgotten by the adults in charge. After a trip to the dentist to fill in the chipped portion of my front tooth with composite resin, all returned to outer normalcy (if you didn’t count what my father had deemed my “whorish” blond hair). Minus the physical reminders of the fight during which he punched me in the face repeatedly, we moved forward without discussing the incident, as if it had never happened.

There would be no family therapy sessions, no psychological counseling, like in the After School Special television shows. In our family, when abuse happened, we did the sociological equivalent of a cartoon character emitting a “just minding my own business” whistle and sidestepping uneasily out of the room. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

I had my gym bag packed with clothes and all of the money I had ferreted away to date; around forty dollars. The plan was to ask to spend the night at a good friend’s house. If I was denied, I was running away. Because I was never allowed to go anywhere, I was pretty sure I would be running away.

I’d had it. I was angry about being beaten up. I was angry that nobody cared. I was angry that I didn’t get to have a social life and was expected to spend my teenage years friendless, in the middle of nowhere. I was just plain angry, and I wanted to do something bad to the people who were making me feel this way. It really was that simple.

A therapist would probably call it a cry for help, but a more accurate assessment would be that it was a middle finger. Fuck you. Fuck you, you awful, kid-punching people who never let me be a teenager or have any fun. Fuck you, I’m leaving. Oh, and also: fuck you. Did I mention that?

That morning, I asked my father if I could spend the night at my best girlfriend’s house. He said no, as expected. I left the house with a goodbye yelled down the hallway, so that my gym bag would not cause suspicion. I walked the usual route down the dusty gravel road to the bus stop and rode it to school, just to get out of nowhere-land and into the city.

When I got to school, I walked off campus. The girl who had been in accelerated classes and the gifted program her entire life was now resigned to not graduating from high school. I didn’t even care. I was so unhappy with my life; I couldn’t stand it in my desert prison with the guy who’d beaten me up, even one more day.

I wandered around the city, getting further away from the school as the day progressed. I worried my father would send the police to the area, looking for me. What I didn’t realize in my naivety was that he had as much reason as I to avoid the police. The police would ask his teenage runaway daughter questions with ugly answers that painted him in an unflattering light. He never called the police.

Foolishly thinking I would need a disguise, I bought a hair dye in a grocery store to change my white blond hair to a burgundy red. I grabbed a bag of on-sale bread rolls while I was there. I ate a few and gave the rest of them away to a homeless person in a Phoenix alley.

I found a bathroom and changed my hair. The violent incident that led to my eventual running away from home was set into motion by the bleaching of my hair, and the irony of now putting it back to a more father-friendly color to evade the police was lost on me.

After school hours were over, I found a pay phone and called my best friend. She told me about a party that night and we arranged a meeting place where she would come get me. Nothing else to do, I headed that way.

The party was in a cheap motel room. It was being thrown by three older military guys with a penchant for high school girls. The bathtub was full of ice and free booze, and the dimly lit room was packed with illegal deeds. A boom box sat on a bedside table, blasting the latest rock. It was sweaty, crowded, and overpowering. The smell of teenage pheromones was louder than everything.

The party tapered off into the late hours, and as high school curfews slowly eliminated the crowd, I found myself wondering where I was going to sleep.

One of the older guys throwing the party had latched on to me. We were drinking and talking, sitting on the edge of a bed, which would have seemed like a dangerous idea if the same bed hadn’t been used as a crowded couch for the last few hours. It seemed benign enough to an ignorant young girl who had no idea what he really wanted.

He pounced fast, kissing me roughly. I didn’t want to kiss him, not at all. I looked around wildly for help as he pinned me to the dirty motel bed, but the room had cleared. There was nobody left but the two of us. He had been waiting patiently for this opportunity, placating the stupid drunk teenager with small talk and alcohol.

Outside the room, I could hear talking in the parking lot as people said their goodbyes. I could hear cars starting, engines revving, and help leaving.

While he was sucking on my neck, giving me the kind of red marks I would despise the rest of my life, I was trying with all of my strength to push him off. I had moved from not attracted into completely repulsed by him, but I couldn’t make it stop.

He was a big guy, and muscular from the military training. He wouldn’t budge. I started to get genuinely scared, as I let myself think the frantic, horrified thought I’m sure many victims have had: “Oh my god, I’m about to get raped.”

This was how it happened. This was how girls got raped. I was saying, “No. Get off of me,” and he wasn’t listening. At all. But I didn’t want to get raped. I needed a new approach.

My whole life I have had a really calm mind in moments of extreme pressure, and this was one of them. I quickly assessed the situation and decided to psychologically outwit this bastard, if I could.

I stopped struggling and saying no, and acted like I was into what was happening. I kissed back. I used my hands. I convinced him that I wanted it as much as he did. I just needed to earn his trust and get him to lower his guard for one second, because there was no way I was getting out of the situation otherwise. He was just too strong.

Once I’d sold my desire enough, I told him in my best husky, oversexed voice that I thought we should both take off our shirts. He temporarily shifted his weight off of me while he sat up to pull his T-shirt over his head. I made bedroom eyes and pretended to start taking my shirt off too.

This was the chance I’d been hoping for, probably the only one I was going to get. I shoved myself out from underneath him while he was off-balance, and ran for the door to the motel room. I knew that if I could just get outside to yell for help, I’d escape.

I made it outside, with my potential rapist running thirty feet behind me. He was shirtless and angry. I spotted my best friend across the parking lot, exchanging phone numbers with a guy she’d been talking to all night. They were in front of his car, getting ready to leave. I ran as fast as I could in their direction.

When I got there, I said in a low, whispering voice, “Help me, please,” right before the guy I’d left in the motel room bed caught up. I said overly loudly to them, “I just realized I’m late for my curfew! Can you give me a ride home?”

My friend and the guy she was talking to both understood immediately what was happening and hustled me into the car, amid protests from my pursuer. We kept it really chipper and friendly, exclaiming things like, “Hey, thanks for the party!” as we drove away. We left him dejected and annoyed, standing in the parking lot.

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24 Crayons

I had finally moved up to the bigger box. The coveted 24 pack of Crayola Crayons. I had colored my 5-year-old way through the 8 pack and the 16, and had graduated to 24. I was so excited to have so many more options, so many more of the bright, happy colors I adored. My coloring books would never be the same.

We didn’t have a lot of money, and it was 1976, so coloring was one of my favorite forms of entertainment. Things were slower back then, and without television networks devoted to endless cartoons, video games and the internet to entertain us, we had to find things to do on our own. Free from the psychological constraints having an incredibly talented sister would later place on me, I still fancied myself quite the artist.

I’d gotten in trouble before for leaving my crayons on the floor of the living room, and had been instructed, as usual, to go get my father’s belt for a beating. I was a precocious, stubborn, strong-willed little girl, but I lived in fear of the belt. When the belt entered the picture, my red curls snapped to attention, and my blue eyes widened in fear. I had the task of picking up my crayons permanently seared into my memory with every lash of leather on my young skin. From that point on, I always picked up my crayons when I was done coloring. Always.

My sister was a few years younger than me, and I never wanted to play with her. She was a great kid, but I was an odd child, and preferred to play alone. She followed me around and wanted to do everything I did, to my annoyance, and I was required to share my things with her, which is a nice lesson. But she was younger than me and didn’t quite have the house rules committed to memory. I should have seen it coming.

When I let my little sister borrow the glorious 24 pack of crayons, I was probably relieved that she’d found something to do besides emulate me. I had been busy playing with toys in my orange shag-carpeted bedroom, probably listening to the Mickey Mouse record player I loved so much, when my dad got home from work.

My dad really liked to take out his bad days on his wife and two daughters when he got home, and because he was an unhappy person in an unhappy marriage working a job he didn’t like, most of his days were bad. Much of my early childhood was spent avoiding the man, because being within his physical or mental reach never yielded anything particularly pleasant. He had proven himself easily capable of hitting my mom and me, so I kept my distance from the junkyard dog of his psyche.

He yelled my name, and I froze in terror. He sounded mad, and that never meant anything good. But I knew that hiding would only make the punishment worse when he found me. And he always found me. Full of dread, I walked down the hallway from my room, toward the living room where he stood.

Where he stood over my crayons.

My sister had left them out. She was younger. She didn’t know. She didn’t realize the enormity of what she’d done. And I would love to say that I was a brave girl and took the fall for her, but instead I ratted her out immediately. It wasn’t noble of me, but I knew she wouldn’t be punished as harshly. I thought that maybe if he knew I hadn’t done it, that I’d respected the rules written on my bare ass by the stinging belt, he might calm down and understand this time. Just this time, maybe it could be different.

I apologized again and again, repeated that I’d lent my crayons to my little sister, that I never would have left them out. When he didn’t send me to go get the belt, I thought that maybe my begging had worked.

He bent down and started to gather up the crayons into his hands. I was confused. Surely he wasn’t picking them up for me? Shouldn’t he be making my sister pick them up, the way I’d had to pick them up before, limping from the spanking, with snot and tears crusting my face, gathering them into my shaking toddler hands?

He walked into the kitchen with my 24 crayons. My mom was cooking dinner and turned around to watch as he started snapping them in half, slowly, individually, while he laughed at my growing hysterics. He dropped the broken pieces into the open garbage can while I sobbed in horror.

I was screaming for my mom to stop him, that my sister had left them out, not me, while she screamed at him to stop. But no matter how hard I cried and apologized for what I hadn’t even done, no matter how my mom pleaded, he just kept snapping them.

Red, snap! Dandelion, snap! Violet, snap! Orange, snap! Green-yellow, snap! Yellow-orange, snap! Violet-red, snap! Yellow-green, snap! Yellow, snap! Blue-green, snap! Scarlet, snap! Cerulean, snap! Apricot, snap! Red-violet, snap! Indigo, snap! White, snap! Brown, snap! Black, snap! Carnation pink, snap! Red-orange, snap! Green, snap! Blue, snap! Blue-violet, snap! And gray, snap! So much gray.

Until all of my beautiful colors were ruined.

He grabbed a beer and left the kitchen to sit in his chair in front of the television until my mom finished cooking dinner.

I think the worst part of all was how my father destroyed my brand new crayons with a smile on his face. This was no “it hurts me more than it hurts you” parental lesson, he clearly relished the pain he was causing me; I have no doubt. I am not one of those people with an amazing brain that can recall many clear moments from childhood, but the traumatizing ones have always stayed with me. This was one of my first lessons about the great cruelty of which humans are capable, and I’ll never forget it.

When You Did Not Have Consent

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When I was a little girl, age 5-7, and the older boy often took me into his bedroom to pull down our pants and touch genitals, saying, “This is how people show they love each other.”

When my grandfather encouraged my female cousins and me to look at the underage porn magazines he kept in his bedroom.

When he got caught molesting one of my cousins, only because the other one told on him, and was never legally punished.

When he showed up to family gatherings with the little neighbor girl as his “date,” and my family made remarks behind his back about how tacky it was—but nobody helped his new victim.

When I was 6 and a stranger tried to get me into his car while walking home from school, and my lizard brain told me to run back to the school for help, where they called my mom to pick me up.

When walking home from school another time, a man flashed his penis at me, and laughed as I ran.

When the 20-something guy started hanging out with my group of friends, tickling and touching us, until we asked an adult to make him leave, and he tried to make us feel guilty.

When my mom divorced the pathetic bully who held me down to push his stinky, crunchy-with-sweat, black work socks in my face, and then hit me as hard as he could because while struggling to escape the smell, I instinctively kicked.

When the same man would make me go get the belt to add psychological torture to physical abuse.

When, before I turned 6, “bare-bottomed spankings” were a thing, as if a the grown son of a pedophile making a little girl pull down her underwear so the spanking will sting more is not perverted and inappropriate as fuck.

When my mom married my stepfather who had a 6-years-older-than-me son who would often grab girls in the crotch, until one day his sister yelled at him to stop doing that to us.

When the same stepbrother, who was 9 years older than my younger sister, secretly raped her in his bedroom from age 5-8, telling her, “This is how people show they love each other,” while calling his semen on her stomach “baby food” when she asked what it was.

When nobody wanted to believe her because it was icky, and she had to live alone with her abuse, for years, until the weight became too much to bear.

When we were moved away from all friends and family to the middle of nowhere, and my new stepfather decided I hadn’t watered and fed the chickens right, so he dragged me by my 8-year-old arm to show me what I’d done incorrectly.

When he then kicked me in the tailbone so hard my legs wouldn’t move for a while, so I stayed on the ground waiting for the numbness to subside, reaching into my pants to check for blood and crying because I was alone, in pain, and nobody cared.

When my biological father beat me so violently my face was unrecognizably distorted, one of two black eyes completely shut, chipped front tooth, clothes blood-soaked and ruined from the teeth-ripped flesh inside my swollen lips gushing blood.

When I was curled up fetal on the cold, gray tile of the foyer, where I hadn’t made it to the door because he grabbed my skirt, so I instead faced down into the pool of blood forming beneath me, wondering who was screaming because I’d dissociated from my body.

When he then kicked me, and scornfully told me to “stop being so dramatic.”

When I hitchhiked because I had no ride home and the guys drove me outside of Phoenix, pulled over in a scary, deserted area, and the driver pulled out his penis, imploring me to “Touch it, come on, touch it,” while the others in the car laughed.

When I refused to “touch it” and had to walk the psychological tightrope between indignant and annoyed, but not too angry, lest I trigger violence, then play nice and talk about “going rafting together sometime” after the driver gave up, praying I would make it home alive.

When my high school boyfriend broke up with me for someone else, got jealous that I, too, had moved on, and beat me up in an empty parking lot after confronting me, bruising my face, and breaking my ring finger, later making it harder to play guitar in bands.

When I went to the police and filed an assault and battery charge afterward, and later heard the ex-boyfriend only got a $50 fine for the permanently damaged and crooked finger I still stare at every day.

When the football quarterback I was kissing in the back of a car ripped my jeans zipper open and pulled them off to fuck me, when all I wanted to do was kiss, so I went somewhere else in my head until he was done, and lied to my parents about how the zipper broke.

When I got drunk at a high school party and puked on my shirt and pants, so the girls put my clothes in the washer and dryer while I was passed out in a pile of dirty laundry in the garage, and a group of boys started talking about raping me.

When a boy named Scott I didn’t know very well told the group of my would-be gang rapists, “If anyone touches Tawni, you’re going through me,” so they left me alone—and one guy doing the right thing was enough of an anomaly that a surprised person who overheard later relayed the story to me.

When I went to college, poor and without a car, and run-walked home from my fast food job late at night, scared when men would often pull over, offer me a ride, and yell “Bitch!” at me before spinning dirt and rocks on me for politely refusing.

When the guy stalked me in the dark morning hours every day walking to my early doughnut shop job, talk-driving next to me, offering me a ride “for my safety,” and got mad when I wouldn’t get in his car, forcing me to find different and further-to-walk routes to avoid him.

When I only wanted a ride home from a college party, and the guy who gave me a ride made a point of dropping off the other guy he gave a ride first, then wouldn’t let me out of his car at my house until I let him fuck me while I went somewhere else in my head.

When my all-girl rock band was visiting our record label in New York and a strange man behind me in a crowd pushed his penis into my rear end, smirked, and walked away when I turned around to confront him.

When the creepy ex-boyfriend with a secret stash of rape porn and an SKS rifle under his bed once used my chain necklace to choke me without my consent during sex, bruising my neck, until the chain snapped, allowing me to breathe before I passed out.

When the same boyfriend got mad at me in a bar and left me there, so I walked home crying, and a group of guys pulled up next to me in a car to offer me a ride, yelling “Bitch!” at me when with tears running down my face, I told them, “No thank you, I’m not having a good night. I need to walk,” foolishly hoping that maybe because I was crying this time, I wouldn’t have obscenities yelled at me for refusing to get into a car full of strangers.

When my 15+ years-older step-uncle moved to the same city as me, began flirting with and harassing me, coming to my band’s shows, entering my apartment to leave items when I wasn’t there, or to knock on the door while I hid, making me feel violated and unsafe.

When he came to the convenience store job where I was trapped behind the counter, forcing me to deal with daily visits, afraid of disturbing the family balance if I told him to fuck off, stop acting like a pervert, and leave me alone.

When, after turning him down for drinks and movies and nights out together, trying to “be nice,” at least 20 times, he finally got angry, yelled at me, stormed out— and I felt nothing but relief.

When he recently turned up at a family gathering, and after not seeing him for over 10 years, he told me, “I used to have such a crush on you. You still look good. If I were a younger man, I’d wear you out,” in a lascivious tone of voice, making me feel repulsed.

When I didn’t call him out for being completely inappropriate to his married step-niece in front of her 10-year-old son out of unspoken pressure to “be nice” because he’s family.

When this same man gave my 21-year-old niece the creeps by looking her up and down, telling her in a sexual tone of voice that made her uncomfortable, “she’d grown up into a very attractive young woman,” as if this epitomizes all she might aspire to be.

When a 60-year-old man who knows damned well he’s being inappropriate is allowed to do so because none of the women in the family who discuss his behavior want to cause trouble, so we just endure it, and he gets away with it, and he knows this, so he will always do it.

When I lived in Los Angeles, and the large man I tried to not make eye contact with as we passed on the sidewalk punched me in the chest so hard my heart skipped a beat and I couldn’t breathe, and I didn’t bother finding a business and calling the police because I knew nobody would take me seriously.

When the guy at my gym has been monopolizing a machine for 30 minutes, walks away, and I try to use it quickly for 5 minutes, refusing to “be nice” and obediently move when he comes back to stand over me aggressively—so he sits 10 feet away, glaring threateningly at me.

When I share this story on social media, and guys oblivious to their own male privilege call me rude names and comment that I should have had better gym etiquette and “been nice,” completely missing the point, because they don’t have to feel physically threatened for existing while female.

When I used to go for runs and felt I needed to wear baggy clothing, or else the male attention that made me feel frightened for my safety was somehow my fault.

When I used to go for runs in baggy clothing, and still had to listen to men yell demeaning things from their cars at me.

When women are judged purely for how we look, as if we exist only for decoration or visual pleasure.

When women are threatened, harassed, or stalked on the internet by anonymous, cowardly assholes with something to prove and nothing to lose.

 

 

These are all examples of when you did not have consent.

 

This is not how people show they love each other.

 

Girls and women aren’t supposed to fear violence or violation from boys and men, ever.

 

“No” is a complete sentence.

 

When we place a boundary, or are too emotionally immature to know how to do so, you don’t get to cross lines you shouldn’t without consequences.

If we are physically unable to place a boundary—for any reason—you should assume that also means no.

Your vile actions haunt us, and change who we become, who we might have been.

Because we remember. Forever. So you should, too.

 

You should feel guilty for these things.

You should feel sorry that you did these things.

You should, at the very least, take responsibility for, acknowledge, and apologize for these things.

You should never blame the victims for these things.

 

Women are allowed to be angry.

We are tired of being unwilling participants forced to march in your endless parade of insecurity.

We are tired, and we are angry.

 

This writing seems long, yet is an abbreviated list, because I’m not special. Many women have longer, more haunting lists.

But the one thing we have in common is that we all have a list.

A list of when you did not have consent.

 

 

5 Things to Kindly Keep in Mind with People Processing Violence

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Children learn what they see, so please, lead by positive example. Psychologically healthy parents protect their children, they don’t hit them. Fear and respect are not the same thing, and children deserve to feel safe.

 

People who’ve survived any form of physical abuse or threat are often left with hard-to-heal emotional scars. The damage can take many forms, such as: sexual molestation, rape, being physically struck or beaten, experiencing danger, and military service. But no matter how personal safety violations are inflicted, any may lead to psychological dysfunction.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, dissociation, denial, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are some issues experienced by humans whose nervous systems have been pushed beyond their limits. People who experience assault-based trauma are more likely to develop PTSD, but everyone has a different level of stress they can handle before becoming permanently overwhelmed. Because all humans are different, there’s no way to predict psychological disorders, and no guaranteed cures.

Some common symptoms felt by those who’ve been in threatening situations may include hypervigilance, being easily startled, insomnia, never feeling safe, brain fog, irritability, an exaggerated fight-or-flight response, mood swings, and panic attacks involving dizziness, nausea, sweating, rapid heartbeat, tunneling vision, or a sense of impending doom.

Below are 5 things to kindly keep in mind while talking to people processing violence:

  1. The Compassion Competition—

One of the worst assumptions to make about a person affected by violence is that they lack perspective or don’t understand that somebody always has it worse. Abused people know they’re not the only person to which injustice has happened, and unless they’ve never been on the Internet, they’re obviously aware of life’s many atrocities.

Examples of this might be saying, “Well, at least THIS WORSE THING didn’t happen to you…” and giving an example of something you consider a greater wrongdoing.

This reaction completely invalidates the feelings of the person who trusted you enough to confide, and insults their intelligence. The fact that bad things also happen to others doesn’t magically erase the bad things that have happened to them, no matter where you’d place the abuse on your spectrum.

In short: Pain is not a contest. You can show empathy to more than one person at a time without dismissing the feelings of anyone. Because regardless of how someone was hurt, it always matters.

  1. The Dance of Denial—

Many victims of physical or sexual abuse find themselves alone with their pain because the topic makes others feel uncomfortable. This can be especially true if the person was violated by a family member.

Families sometimes brush unflattering stories about sexual or physical abusers under the rug because it’s hard to believe a relative is capable of such brutality. But this reaction can re-victimize people by invalidating their pain.

Often, rather than helping those harmed by a family member or stranger, friends and relatives defensively ignore the issue, allowing the perpetrator to get away with something evil. This lack of justice or support can severely hamper the healing process, because a person can’t heal from a wound nobody will acknowledge.

In short: Abuse at the hands of a stranger -or- a family member hurts, and all forms of abuse are abuse. Ignoring the “icky” can make those harmed feel like they’ve done something wrong, rather than the person who caused the damage. Listen, believe, and strengthen instead of shaming.

  1. The Blame Game—

If you ever feel like saying, “Well that person is a ____, so what did you expect?” or, “I just accept that they’re messed up, and ignore it. That’s just who they are!” about the person who harmed someone, go ahead and keep that thought to yourself, because it reeks of victim blaming.

You may have the best intentions, such as trying to commiserate with the person who’s sharing their painful experience with you. However, what they often hear instead is: “Shame on you for being stupid. You should have known what you were dealing with, and anticipated your own violation.”

In short: Nobody in a civilized society should ever have to expect violence. Don’t imply that people could have predicted their own abuse and avoided it, because this only makes you look uncompassionate.

  1. Downplaying the Damage—

There is nothing more unhelpful than someone telling you to “get over it” in reference to anything, including the violation of your personal safety. Unless you have the ability to crawl into another person’s psyche and assess how something has affected them, dismissing their damage can be downright dangerous.

Everyone has a right to feel safe, and whether you’ve experienced similar things or not, your decision that everyone else has to deal with emotions exactly the way you do is thoughtless and condescending, at best.

Being told you’re “histrionic” or to “put on your big boy/big girl pants” are examples of thoughtless advice, and often given by those who choose to live in denial, rather than being brave enough to deal with their problems. This form of blatant invalidation is heartless and harmful. If someone has the courage to face their personal demons, rather than attempting to humiliate them into silence because of your own cowardice, you might instead watch and learn.

In short: Gaslighting is gross. Stop trying to make people feel like they’re overreacting or incorrectly imagining their own abuse. Everybody’s emotions are valid, and your motives are questionable if you’d prefer people in pain “suck it up and move on.” If you feel this way, why don’t YOU move on… somewhere out of hearing range.

  1. No Pity Parties, Please—

Most people who’ve been hurt by someone else are furious that they were forced into the role of victim, and don’t enjoy it. Treating them with compassion is lovely, but viewing them with pity can be upsetting. Being helpless is the worst feeling in the world, and nobody who’s experienced it ever wants to feel it again.

The word “survivor” is preferred over the word “victim” by many because it implies strength, rather than weakness. Surviving doesn’t have to mean someone has survived a life-or-death situation, either—it simply means someone is trying to accept and cope with what’s happened to them.

In short: Nobody chooses to be abused, and treating people like they’re fragile or broken because of the violating actions of another can frustrate them. Let them know you think they’re strong for moving forward, despite those who’ve tried to hold them back. Survivors of abuse would much rather you celebrate their courage than pity them.

***

People on the path to wellness don’t appreciate roadblocks created by other humans, well-intentioned or not. If you truly want to help someone move past bad things that have happened to them, listen to and believe them, don’t invalidate their feelings, and try to empathize.

Kindness and understanding go a long way in this world, and by avoiding the potentially harmful reactions listed above, you might give someone the compassion and support they need to heal themselves.