Two in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

I am a woman of a certain age. Not quite a senior. Not quite a young woman. The generation before me talked about nothing. Compelled to silence by strong (read: threatening) hands, the social mores of their day, and the hopelessness that comes from deeply entrenched belief that their story will not make a difference, their inner voice says, “What difference would it make if I did talk about it?” #MeToo is a bit baffling and alarming to the ones who’ve gone before us in building a tidily polite society.

The pendulum is swinging to the extreme opposite of that rigidity. The generation following mine talks about everything. Nothing is private, sacred, or off-limits. #MeToo makes sense and there’s an understanding that paying attention to Self is legitimate, normal, and even useful.

You fit somewhere in this mix, too, hey? For reasons that are good enough for you, you have openly spoken of your trauma, your broken spirit, your fear for the future. For reasons that are good enough for you, you have kept your experiences tucked well away from the eyes and ears of even the people who know and love you best. You wouldn’t dream of speaking them aloud.

Your story is your story. You carry great courage through your day (and you know it takes courage just to get out of bed some mornings!). The goodness that is deep within you is always ready to bring light and hope right out into the open in this dark world. Your humor and uniquely-yours point of view? It’s going to be the thing that helps make the world a softer place for someone else.

You are resilient. Do you know that about yourself? You probably don’t feel resilient, but consider what you’ve come through – and here you are! Still breathing in, breathing out. Sometimes that’s enough. But you’re moving past that, too. You’re loving others. You’re considering loving yourself.

That is a bit of sticking point, right? Loving Self. For some of us, that’s a far off and distant land – the stuff of fairy tales and whimsy. Or, more darkly, impossible: to love Self would mean considering who that Self is. And we don’t think that person is worth knowing at all.

While our newsfeeds explode with stories of assault, intimidating powers-that-be, and stories of intimate violation your own story has been pulled to the forefront of your thinking. You didn’t invite it. But thoughts you’ve avoided for years, forever, are suddenly squarely in your line of sight.

It’s ok if you don’t know what to do with that today. It’s ok if want to talk about things long-silent. Your experience is your own. It’s ok to find someone who is safe and present and selfless to share how you relate to the cultural story. It’s also ok if you don’t want to talk about this yet.

If you are ready to talk about the very complex ways that you have been impacted by trauma (and that trauma may not be sexual in nature), you are not alone. There are listeners, friends, and professionals nearby. Your story is important. A healing and moving-toward-wholeness You will ensure that the generation that comes after us…and the one that comes after them…can focus their energies on other things.

*This was originally posted on the ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’ blog

It’s Media Literacy Week in Canada.

The media has many important roles, and timely and sensitive coverage of stories can be very helpful, particularly when it comes to emergency situations. There are many benefits to media coverage: positive changes in public perception and policy; awareness on important issues like abuse and drunk driving, to name a few.

The media can also be a great outlet for trauma survivors, an avenue to tell their stories, and humanize the people involved. This kind of coverage can help create resilience and hope within a community, but when reporting is done at inappropriate times or with inaccurate information, it can do more harm than good.

Media coverage can re-victimize trauma survivors, reinforce misconceptions about trauma and crime, and in some cases trigger PTSD symptoms. In order to protect the survivors in these stories, it’s important for media to take some precaution.

  • Interview survivors at appropriate times: when victims may feel numb, confused or most vulnerable is right after a crime, during a trial, etc.
  • Creating perceptions about the survivor or victim: creating the impression that the victim or survivor contributed in some way to their victimization is damaging to the person involved and everyone close to them as well. Digging up negative information about victims is traumatic, as well as communicating the story in a way that uses misleading language.
  • Avoid taking or publishing inappropriate photos: avoid taking or publishing photos of bodies, body bags or potentially traumatic things at crime scenes like blood, or personal items (baby clothes, etc.).

When myths about crime are perpetuated in the media, it can have traumatic consequences on victims and their surviving family members, as well as impact negatively on a victim’s efforts to reconstruct his or her life following a crime. Even when myths are not explicitly stated, language is important. [Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime] 

Language is particularly important, because victim blaming, whether intentional or not, can be traumatizing to a survivor, but also feeds misconceptions in the public. We all want to be part of the solution, not the problem, so keeping trauma survivors at the helm of communication is important.

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime has more great resources for media available on their website.

— Written by Amber Craig