It can be overwhelming when people close to us experience interpersonal violence (sexual assault, abusive relationships, stalking, or harassment). In our efforts to support them, we may not take the time to consider how we are responding to their experience of violence. Being close to someone who has experienced IPV, sometimes referred to as being a secondary survivor, brings its own emotions and requires its own particular healing process. Through my own friendships and volunteer work at OCRCC, I know many people who have experienced violence. Being able to talk about how we react to our loved ones being hurt is important! Honoring and giving space to these emotions can help to ensure that our relationships with our loved ones who have experienced IPV remain healthy and that we are both supported as we heal together. Folks close to individuals who have experienced IPV may feel:
Most of us know someone who has experienced interpersonal violence (sexual assault, abusive relationships, stalking, or harassment), and supporting that person can be difficult work. Watching people who we love and care about suffer is never easy, and we often want to do anything that we can to help them feel better. This is a wonderful impulse! It can give us energy to provide lasting and meaningful support to others. However, it can also encourage us to set up unhealthy boundaries as friends and allies.
The most powerful and generous gestures we can make to individuals who have experienced interpersonal violence are to
1) Listen to the experiences and emotions that they are sharing
2) Validate and Believe what they share and
3) Connect them to reporting and support resources that they feel comfortable seeking