Speak up, listen
John Maxwell said: “Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.”
As we begin Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we turn our thoughts to victims and survivors of violent, abusive relationships. What empowers a victim to take a stand, to take a step toward safety and freedom? It is hope. Hope that the future can be different; hope that they can find help and relief; hope that they can have a better, safer life.
Hope brings power. Power to make a phone call, tell a friend, acknowledge the truth about a toxic relationship. Power to rise up and take a stand for yourself, your children, your future. But what gives hope to a victim of domestic violence?
“Information is power,” is a longstanding slogan associated with domestic violence programs. The more victims know about services available, community resources, and victimization, the more likely they are to hope for a different future. Makes sense. But I believe that the information that is most vital to a victim is the kind of information that can only be shared one-on-one. It’s the information that you know what is going on and that you will stand by them as they leave that toxic relationship.
When we let victims know that we will be there for them, we offer them hope. You see, what victims want is for us to stand by their sides while they save themselves. They do not want us to save them. Victims need our emotional support, our encouraging words. Victims need us to listen to them express their needs and then respond to those needs. Victims need do not need us to make a plan for them, but need us to respect the plans they make for themselves. Victims need our support as they reclaim their independence and self-worth.
If silence hides violence, we need to speak up and then listen. Offer hope and empower victims. Then stand back in awe as a victim becomes a survivor and a survivor becomes a thriver.