When working with survivors, a few things need to be clarified. Unfortunately some of these should be a given such as respect but the are not always. When it comes to survivors (of all kinds of trauma) it takes more work than usual to build and establish trust, the 10 things listed below are not the only things, just the foundation of trust.

  1. Respect – In reference to [survivors], respect means to treat with esteem, kindness, and equality. We are not glass antiques. We are not a pet. We are not your guinea pig. We are human, just like you.
  2. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. – This comes in for me when people say they will always be there for me. This has only been true for a select few people that I’ve known ever. Many survivors have also felt this over and over; weather its our families, the others we worked with that were sold, killed, or left behind  when exiting the life. Moreover those that decided to leave for no reason without an explanation. All this to say, refer back to respect; if you do not think or do not know if you can commit to something DON’T. If you say you’ll be there: BE THERE. If you need a minute or 7: SAY IT.
  3. Be intentional – We survivors know we are/can be a lot to handle. We know what we’ve been through is sad and angering and scary and a lot of other things. But we also need to talk about it. Being intentional means, if you ask a question, be ready for the raw, real, and honest answer. Going back to #2; words mean things, be thoughtful and compassionate with your words.
  4. Show Up + Be Present – While we understand things in life come up and needing to reschedule; its important to keep your word when you say you want to meet up. As with any relationship, the other important thing is to be present and engage. This is especially important because we (most of us) have not had people in our lives who really care and want to know us for a long while. If ever.
  5. Listen, acknowledge, and validate – Listening is something we, unfortunately have to ask for as survivors. Many of us have been burned this way by ‘advocates’ all too many times. Please listen to us, actively. This goes back to #4 and #3, show up, be present, be intentional. Acknowledgement, I feel should be a given, but it is not. Acknowledgement is done in many ways from showing up, to asking questions, to having appropriate reactions to the things we say. The combination of these things are what create validation. It doesn’t hurt to tell us that our feelings, thoughts, etc. are valid.
  6. When a survivor confides in you, thank them. – A lot of us are very open about being a survivor, but keep details to ourselves for the most part. Those that know more than that are privileged; if we feel comfortable enough to share our pain. Please thank us. This leads into the next factor.
  7. Never use a survivor’s story without EXPLICIT permission. – Our pain, feelings, experiences etc. are not yours to share. Period. If/when we give you permission to share something. It is for that specific thing only and for that one time. We have the right to know when, why, how, and where our story will be shared. We have the right to place restrictions on or revoke your ability to share at any point for any reason. Even if the reason is not forthcoming. Our stories are just that, ours.
  8. Don’t assume or compare – Just because we share characteristics of some/many kind(s) as another survivor, does not mean we deserve to be compared. We do not deserve to be expected or assumed to follow suit of others. Just because I grew up in a ritualistic cult gang does not mean I will have experienced the same thing or will heal the same way as another survivor who grew up in a ritualistic cult gang. Or anyone else for that matter.
  9. Ask before giving advice or touching – Not only is this polite, but also crucial for survivor relationships. We have had a lot of unsolicited advice over the years, it is a big thing most of us use to gauge a person’s safety level. The same goes for touch, we’ve had way more than our fair share of unwanted and/or unsolicited touching. If you want to build our trust, please, PLEASE ask.
  10. Survivors are more than our trauma. – We are more than our abuse. Our stories don’t begin and END with the things that have happened to us. We are human. We exist outside of our circumstances. This is something that is a huge factor for probably most, if not all of us. We are told in the life that we will never be more than a ho. We are striped of everything. Literally. We are lucky to be alive. To have escaped, if we have. If we are still in the life ALL of these are that much more important.

Yeah, it’s about you

Sometimes I find myself thinking about you

And the relationship we had

Your family

How happy I thought we were

How you made me laugh

And how you made me cry

I think about all the times I cried myself to sleep

While you slept like a baby next to me

And I think about all the adventures we had

The places you showed me

The memories we will always share

And I think about that time

You know this one too

That first time you pinned me to the bed

You were tickling me

At first it was fun

But then you tickled me even after I said stop

And the second time you pinned me to the bed

Tickling me

But it wasn’t so fun

Cause I knew what was coming

And then I think about that time

The one where you threw the heater at me

Because I didn’t want it on

And you did

How it was my fault

How every time I opened my mouth

It was not my place

It was always my fault when you got upset

And then you would cry

And you would say you were sorry

And you would beg me not to leave

Cause everyone always left you

At first I genuinely believed you

And I genuinely thought I was in the wrong

And then you would push me when we would disagree

And I was clumsy

I should watch where I step

And then

Then you laughed

You laughed because you knew I was stuck

You laughed because you knew you won

You laughed because

Because you had succeeded in tearing me down

You had succeeded in isolating me

You had succeeded at your goal

You had succeeded to make me your bitch

All while I thought you loved me

All while telling me that was forever

And then I started feeling bad for you

And I tried to help you

I told myself that things would get better

If only I could make you happy

If only I could be a better partner

Not be so argumentative

Hold my tongue

Do what you said

And then I lost my job

Because you needed me

And I had enough

I was done

I needed things in life

And I wasn’t going to let you take my basic needs

Not anymore

You didn’t like that

So you created a situation

Leaving me on the street

And you went and found yourself another victim

I think about you

I wonder how you are doing

I wonder if you are happy

I wonder if you think about me

And then I remember

The memories we will always share


Abusive Love

Lauren was my first love. And I believe some part of me will always love her. She was a very important part of my life…[un]fortunately that was only for a season. Things ended very badly…

I never thought it could happen to me

Not because I’m above it

But because I thought I would notice the signs

I thought I would see the subtleties

I thought my horrific past made me immune

I thought

But my past made it easier

And the subtleties were everywhere

I excused them as love

As someone who really cared for me

When things progressed beyond subtle

I was already stuck

I was already making excuses for small things

The big things followed suite

And it was easy

It was easy to be ok with being screamed at

It was easy to hide my emotions

It was easy to let her control

It was natural

And I found reasons I deserved it

I was bad

I was dirty

My emotions were irrational

I needed controlled so I didn’t get out of control

I deserved being held down

Talked down

And my needs pushed aside

I was ‘paying my dues’

It wasn’t until it cost me a job that I realized

It wasn’t until she didn’t want me anymore that I realized

It wasn’t until my heart was already so in love

Yet so broken that I realized

This is not safe

This is not healthy

This is not what I want my life to be

Abusive love

~ ~ ~

Why does my playlist symbolize

All the good times I thought we had

What you led me to believe we were

Why did you lie to me

Why did you hurt me

Why did you give me a single red rose

Explaining that you were giving me your heart

I held it so gently

While you stomped on mine

While you drug me through the mud

And told me it was all my fault

That it was all in my head

Even the thoughts in my own head

Started to reflect what you told me I was

Though I had worked so hard to think for myself

You swooped in

At a vulnerable time

And made me believe

That I was still on the right path

In reality

You had taken charge

You placed yourself in my head

Not a single thought I had after a while was mine

You made me believe it all was

Oh, you are good at your game

You brought me in

Wrapped me tight

Tight enough

To suffocate most of me

Tight enough for me to release control

For one last breath

You let me keep the illusion

That you loved me

Until I wasn’t good enough

Good enough for your love any longer

And then you said “let’s be friends”

And it was downhill from there

Those three words released me into the world

But you wanted me to fight for you

So you could turn me down

You wanted me to beg for you not to leave

Beg you to stay

Tell you I needed you

When I didn’t do those things

You got angry

Had I done that

The result would have been similar

But you would have taken me back

To keep the control

There was no winning with you

I always lost

You always win your game

And when you don’t

It’s “poor Lauren”

It always happens TO you

You don’t take responsibility

And you refuse to see reality