It’s the long weekend and reading week is just around the corner. Some of us are heading home and that can bring up different feels. For many survivors of sexual violence the holidays can be challenging. You might be feeling burnt out, stressed about school, worried about the things family members might say to you about sexual assault or it could be the first time you are feeling ready to tell someone what happened. Here are some ways to care for yourself, push back against sexual assault myths and ways allies can support you.
5 things to do for self care while away from school
Self-care can put on the back burner, with assignments, test, quizzes and reading, ain’t nobody got time for all of that! But real talk, making a plan of ways to care for yourself can help. Here are a couple of ideas.
Create a Whatsapp group with friends to talk to throughout the week away. You can share how you are feeling and be reminded that you are not alone. Physically connect with care by keeping a item on you that brings you strength. It can be stone that brings you calm, a small stuffed animal you carry in your bag, a image you can look at when things feel too much. Of course if you have a family pet cuddle up with them.
Take planned breaks.
Plan a Netflix binge, take a social media break, build a blanket fort for naps, exercise, or colour. You can our #ConsentComesFirst Colouring Book found here.
Give yourself permission to say no to uninteresting invitations and yes to yourself. Your time is precious. Your energy is precious.
You can also put on some tunes, hold a dance party in your room. Jamming out helps release stress produce endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkiller to reduce stress #boutodanceinthemirror
Nourish your body with food that you love. If large meals feel too much, try breaking it down into snacks throughout the day. Bonus: if a conversation is getting to be too much with a family member you can always use the excuse “I have to grab some water”. You get away AND drinking water helps cleanse your system too.
Sometimes when we are feeling full, we hold in our breath. Deep breaths can help calm your nervous system. Mediation takes it a step further. If you like to try mediation here is one we love – Black Feminist Guided Meditation, We are the ones we’ve been waiting for found here.
If you like certain smells. Light a candle or warm up some scented oils. If candles or oils are not your jam, trying going to a place (coffee shop, friends house or park) that have a comforting smell. Lastly you can try grabbing a piece of clothing and smell that. YES! Don’t act like you haven’t gotten nostalgic with your best friends shirt or blanket. *walks away with pink blanket*
Push Back on Rape Culture
Be it talking about stories in the news or sharing your own experiences of sexual violence – sometimes people we care about say victim blaming statements. These comments can come from lack of education about sexual violence, internalize shame or guilt or misguided stereotypes. No matter what, it’s not okay. When a comment comes at you here are some things to tell yourself or even those close to you.
“What were you wearing? What did you do to lead them on?”
What you were wearing or doing prior to an attack doesn’t matter, no one has the right to anyone’s body. You clothing is not an invitation.
“Were you drunk? Were you flirting with them? Did you give them the wrong impression?”
All you should expect when drinking is a hangover, not assault. Being drunk does not mean consent. Flirting does not mean consent. Consent is given by enthusiastically yes – there is no grey area here. Remember your actions never invite violence. The responsibility for sexual violence is the perpetrator’s not yours.
“Why didn’t you fight back?”
Survivors usually do not consciously “choose” their particular fight, flight, or freeze response to sexual violence. The most common response to sexual violence is freezing, not fighting back. We may feel a significant amount of shock or shame about how we reacted in the moment. Remind yourself and if you have the energy, people around you, that there is no “right” way to react to violence. What we should be focusing on the actions of the perpetrator. This article by Jackie Hong speaks to common responses to sexual violence, check it out here.
“Are you telling the truth or exaggerating?”
It’s hard enough to talk about experiences of sexual violence without being told we are lying or over-exaggerating. If someone challenges your truth, remember that is a reflection of them and not you. #dropthemic
“You “should (*insert unsolicited advice here*)”
Nobody knows what you are going through but you. There is a time and a place for advice, and it’s okay to tell people to keep their judgements to themselves. When you are talking with a friend let them know what you need – validation, comfort, to be heard. It’s your choice.
5 Things you can say to a loved one who is a survivor of sexual violence
There is no right way to feel when a friend tells you about a sexual violence, and looking after each other can bring up feelings . Be gentle on yourselves, connect with professional help (lots of sexual assault centre support allies too) and also remember that self-care is just as important for you as it is for the survivor. Here are some ways you can support survivors;
“Your feelings are valid.” Let the survivor know that any of the thoughts and emotions that they are experiencing are real, valid, true and deserve be to honoured.
“It’s not your fault.” The survivor should not have to justify anything to anyone #mindyourbusiness. Violence is ALWAYS the responsibility of the person who caused harm, and nobody deserves to be violated.
“You have a right to feel safe and supported.” Sexual violence can be incredibly isolating, especially when it feels like those who are close to us don’t understand. Intervene when you witness victim blaming or survivor shaming comments. You can do this by changing the subject, calling in comments that are not okay or distracting the person causing harm so the survivor can leave.
Know your own limits as a bystander and intervene in ways that feel safe for you and supportive of the survivor. To learn more about bystander intervention check out the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centre’s Draw the Line Campaign
“Your body. Your rules.” Remind the survivor that they deserve to have control over their own body, and violence is a major violation of that control. Nobody is entitled to one’s space, body or time.
“I support you in however you choose to proceed.” There is no right way to heal. There is no right way to survive. A person could report, share with a friend, they could want to be alone, they could continue to date the person (which is hard, but a reality). You can support by helping them locate resources and connect with professional like a Sexual Assault Centre or counselling phone line.
Resources for Survivors and Allies:
- Good2Talk line for post-secondary students at 1-866-925-5454, 24/7
- Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres at http://www.sexualassaultsupport.ca/
- LGBTQ Youth Line 4:00-9:30 PM Sunday-Friday. Toll-Free: 1-800-268-9688 Text: 647-694-4275. TTY: 416-962-0777 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Trans Lifeline Ph: 1-877-330-6366 Hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people.
- Support Service for Male Survivors of Sexual Assault: 24/7 Ph: 1-888-887-0015