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(April 2, 2014 via RAINN) — April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. But speaking about something like abuse or assault can be especially difficult. That’s why if you or someone you love has been affected, it’s crucial to have a support system in place.
If someone discloses details of an assault, there are ways to be supportive. The reaction of the first person a survivor tells can impact his/her decision to move forward and get help — whether that involves contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline or reporting a crime to the police.
That’s why this April, we are focused sharing ways you can support a friend, or what to look for in a supportive friend. If a friend or loved one opens up to you about a sexual assault experience, here are four ways you can be supportive through their healing process:
Listen. Speaking up can be the hardest part for a survivor. Validate your friend’s experience by giving him or her your full attention and a listening ear. Don’t judge or question their actions.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you. Do you want to talk about it?”
Respect. You may be the first person your friend tells. Let him or her share their story on their own terms. Allow your friend to move through the recovery process at his/her own pace.
“We don’t have to talk about it right now, but I’m here for you when you’re ready.”
Share. A survivor may need or want additional support, resources for medical treatment or emotional support. Providing the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) is a good first step.
“I care about you. Can I get you connected to RAINN’S hotline?”
Repeat. Create a culture of openness by continuing to listen to your friend and provide support when appropriate.
“Thanks for sharing with me. Remember, I’m always here for you. Just say the word.”
It’s never too late for someone to get help. Whether an assault occurred 20 years ago, or just yesterday, you can still be there for a friend or loved one who has experienced sexual assault.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or visit the Online Hotline.
Just in time for the kick-off to April’s Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, my new book and DVD are officially released. I am so excited to see SOAR groups forming around the world and for this survivor workbook and support group curriculum to help survivors find their voice and bring them into community.
Why I wrote this book
SOAR is a workbook and video companion to my first book, Hush: Moving from Silence to Healing after Childhood Sexual Abuse (Moody Publishers, 2007). I wrote it after reading thousands of emails from sexual abuse survivors, many of them telling me that Hush has had an incredible impact on their lives and that they wished they could connect with other survivors in a group setting.
I want that for them, too! My heart longs for survivors of abuse to find freedom from their pain by breaking the silence, realizing that what happened to them wasn’t their fault and that they’re not alone. I also want to help survivors personally apply the teachings of Hush in a practical way, to journal the things we’ve been afraid to share, to make it easy for us to talk with others walking on the same path, and to connect us with the God of all comfort, who walks with us toward that pinpoint light of hope at the end of a dark tunnel.
How to use the book
SOAR is broken up into seven sessions. Each week you’ll read one or two chapters of Hush and then flip open your SOAR journal to follow some writing prompts that will help you apply the chapter topics to your own journey. You’ll also learn more about God and begin to connect with Him in your healing.
Referring to Hush frequently as you work through SOAR will help you understand the common effects, struggles, and pain associated with sexual abuse. This workbook is meant to be a friend in that process, holding your hand and helping you take a deep look inside yourself to see how abuse has affected your life, worldview, and relationships and how you want those things to look in the future.
SOAR follows the four major steps of moving from silence to healing after childhood sexual abuse, as outlined in Hush.
Sessions 1 and 2 focus on the first step: shattering the silence.
Sessions 3 and 4 focus on overcoming the lies that enter our lives as a result of abuse.
Session 5 is all about accepting freedom through forgiveness.
Sessions 6 and 7 round out the process by dealing with the fourth step of healing: reaching out.
“Soul Work,” the personal side of the study, is to help you put on paper some of the things you’ve bottled up inside. Journaling is crucial for healing and health. You can write in the spaces provided or buy your own blank journal. The point is to have as much as space as you need to write, draw, scribble and express yourself and your story on paper as much as you can.
Once you’ve done your weekly Soul Work, you’ll be ready to meet with your support group.
“Circle Work” is relationship-based and conversation-focused, so come ready to leave your masks at the door. In a safe, nonjudgmental, understanding, grace- and mercy-filled space, we encourage open, honest sharing about the real issues you’re struggling with. Here’s a place where you get to be yourself! And if you don’t know who that is yet, now is the time to find out. You are to come as you are and will be accepted as you are. Just be willing to commit to the Soul Work each week, attend the group meetings, and share as you are able to. God will meet you in this.
How to use the videos/DVD
Every group session begins with our short video openers. The seven SOAR videos are hosted by me and include some of my survivor friends sharing their stories. They will help break the ice by encouraging sharing and bring a level of comfort and understanding as you begin each group session. You can play these short films for FREE directly from our website, or by purchasing your own SOAR DVD from our store.
A Leaders Guide is written in the back of the book and sample SOAR group registration forms and confidentiality agreements can be downloaded from the website to help you start a group in your church, school or community.
How to get a copy of the book!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
~ Nicole Bromley