Coping with holiday gatherings after #MeToo


Categoria: Self-care and Support, Uncategorized

Modelo: Blog

The holiday season often brings about gatherings of family and friends. It can be both joyous and stressful. In the wake of #MeToo and many people sharing their experience of sexual assault and harassment in a public forum, often for the first time, these social events may bring about an added challenge.

We regularly hear from people who have been victimized and are apprehensive about upcoming family get-togethers. Whether they are family birthday celebrations or full-blown holiday dinners, this occasion raises many concerns. Will those in attendance be dismissive of my experience or blame me? Will the abuser be present?

It’s vital to remember that sexual violence is about power and control. At the time abuse happens, the offender exerts power over a victim with the intention of controlling the person and the situation. Regaining a sense of control is part of the healing process.

This is your story. You decide how and when to tell.

As an adult, whether you were victimized as a child, in later years, or recently, this is your story. You can decide who knows and how much you share. This can be an opportunity to amplify your story and receive support from those you care about. But consider the possibility that you may not get your hoped-for response. Take some time to think about what you might need at this gathering and what will feel supportive for you.

In general, we believe it’s best to have a plan, with pre-identified support people who know your story before you share your experience in a group setting. It can be difficult to predict how friends and family will react to this information. This is even more true if those in attendance know the offender. Even those who are supportive may need time to process or sort through their own feelings when hearing a story for the first time, and that delay may feel unsupportive. Sharing this information in a setting like a big holiday dinner may not lead to the immediate support survivors need at that moment.

If you’ve already shared your experience, decide in advance what parameters you will set around discussion of the abuser or your experience of abuse. If you don’t want to talk about it, make that clear and stand by that. Remember this is your story. And you can decide when and if you will share more at that time.

It may be more comfortable to gather in a public place, such as a restaurant, rather than go to someone’s home if that space does not feel supportive for you.

Other steps you can take to prepare yourself:

  • Ensure you have a reliable exit route. Drive yourself, or with a supportive person, or get your own rental car. Don’t be dependent on an abuser or unsupportive person in order to exit a gathering.
  • Consider staying at a hotel stay rather than at a home where you’re not safe or comfortable. Having a space that’s just yours can contribute to resilience.
  • Think ahead about ways you can create distance and space if you need to. Take the dog for a walk, get coffee, or pick up that forgotten ingredient from the store. You can always retreat to your hotel room for some respite as needed to give yourself that break.

Some people decide not to participate in events because they’ll be in an environment which is not supportive, or where they are not believed. This certainly creates its own stress and pain. As an alternative, think about organizing a holiday gathering with supportive friends, or seek out one that welcomes others. It’s OK to opt out or create your own celebration!

While #MeToo has provided a critically needed voice for victims of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment to share their experience, not everyone is ready to share their experience now or ever. And that’s always OK.

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