More holiday strategies

More holiday strategies

“I still don’t know why someone would wait so many years to report a sexual assault.”

“I’d have given him a knuckle sandwich. Hey, pass the cranberry sauce?”

Welcome to the second post-MeToo holidays.

The next few weeks can be a rough time of year for many. For survivors of sexual assault and abuse, family visits can be particularly stressful, and maybe even unsafe.

Last year, we posted some tips for survivors (and those who support them) to help cope with holiday visits that bring up emotions and memories we thought were laid to rest. These may be worth a re-read. Strategies like anticipating ahead of time where the conversation may go and what you might say in response, mapping out an exit strategy if you need a break, or making plans with a supportive person can all help.

We’re adding a few thoughts this year. Because there’s been so much in the news about sexual assault in virtually every sector – sports, entertainment, doctors, clergy, and political figures – this conversation is bound to come up around everyone’s table.

It’s easier to get angry about or ignore the uninformed questions posed by people you don’t know or care about. It’s a lot harder to ignore or respond in a constructive way when it’s someone sitting across from you at the Thanksgiving table. And it’s more difficult still when the person asking these questions is someone you love, and believe to be intelligent, enlightened, and caring.

How can they not get it?

A true conversation may enlighten someone in your life and maybe even earn a new ally in this important fight to end rape culture.

First, pay attention to your feelings, and practice self-care: it can take some energy and patience to have this conversation. Some survivors report feeling a sense of responsibility to educate; keep in mind that educating others is not a job you need take on if it doesn’t help in your own healing. If you’d rather just concentrate on the turkey and cranberry sauce, no one will judge. This is your decision.

But if you decide to enter this conversation, remember that good, well-intentioned people may be genuinely naive or not completely informed about the issue of sexual assault, and may not be able to put themselves in the shoes of a survivor.

Instead of focusing on the specific report or individuals, try to broaden the conversation. It could help to say things like “isn’t it sad that we sit in judgement of a horrific story like that. I wish for the day when victims could tell someone right away and get immediate support, no matter who they tell.”

This is how a culture changes. It starts with each of us talking with one person at a time, and challenging misperceptions about sexual violence.

If you or someone you know needs help or information, KCSARC’s 24-hour Resource Line is always available at 1.888.99.VOICE (1.888.998.6423).