I understand that it can be hard to know what to say, when someone tells you they have been the target of an abuser. Honestly, I do. Responding to bad news or difficult life circumstances is always tricky, and this one is especially complex. So, I will tell you about the best ways that my friends responded, and you can take it from there.
The Bear Hug
This was by far the best and nicest response I ever got. One of my best friends, listened patiently when I stumbled through my story of cutting contact with my parents (whom he also knew). He then said nothing, but pulled me into the biggest bear hug ever.
I felt safe, and loved, and supported. Perfect response!
The Invitation to Talk
Sometimes you just mention your circumstance because the situation requires it, or sometimes you even just kind off blurt it out. This happened to me with a work colleague once. She realized immediately that I had not really intended to say anything, and so her response was: “thanks for sharing that and trusting me with it. If you ever want to talk about it, you know where to find me”, when then proceeded to talk about other things. She defused the situation, did not increase the weight or importance of the statement and managed to keep all the doors open for me. Now I felt I had a person to confide in if I felt overwhelmed at work.
No Judgement, Only Kindness
I can’t even believe I need to say this, but it is only too easy to communicate judgement, and survivors of abuse deal with a fair bit of that. Trust me, we judge ourselves enough, and do not need more to be piled on. Instead of asking us to explain, elaborate or responding with outcries of disbelieve (but they seemed like such nice people) why not respond with words of kindness and support. These are some of the best I was priviledged to receive.
- That must have been hard, I’m so glad you are feeling better now
- I am so proud you were able to stand up for yourself
- You know I love you, right?
Responding to survivors of abuse is really not that hard, if you just remember to be a kind and loving person 😉