Tag Archives: self care

Supporting teen survivors

7 ways to help a teen survivor of sexual assault, via Everyday Feminism:

(Trigger Warning)

It is devastating to discover that a teen you love has been a victim of sexual violence. When faced with their pain and confusion, you may find yourself feeling powerless to help. If the victim is your own child, the sense of grief can be consuming.

Remember, you are not alone. Other parents and allies have walked this healing path and can help guide you and your loved one through recovery.

As the Founder and Director of Survivor Healing and Empowerment, a healing community for survivors of rape, abuse and domestic minor sex-trafficking, I want you to know that there are many ways you can compassionately support the teen survivor in your life.  44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, so we need to carefully assess the unique needs of young men and women who have endured this trauma. Some of the resources I share will be more applicable to teen girls, but many of these suggestions serve survivors of all gender identities.

Here are are 7 tips to help begin this journey to wholeness:

1. Encourage your loved one to express herself. Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression. Psychologist Dana C. Jack calls depression “the silencing of the self.” Consider finding a counselor who integrates expressive arts therapies (such as art, music or dance therapy). Creative expression helps teens connect with and process the truth of their experience. Writing as A Way of Healing by Louise A. DeSalvo and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron are excellent sources of encouragement for a survivor who wants to heal through creative expression.

2. Help her explore contemplative practices. A contemplative practice quiets the mind in order to cultivate a personal capacity for deep concentration and insight. Examples include yoga, tai chi, meditation and prayer. This is particularly helpful in healing dissociation, a way that trauma victims disconnect from their experience in order to survive. If your loved one has been abused by a religious figure or someone affiliated with your spiritual community, don’t push religion as a source of healing. Give her space to discover their own spiritual path.

3. Visit the website for Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network. Through this site you can search for your local rape crisis center and learn more about sexual assault. Direct your teen to the Online Hotline, an instant messaging section where she will be connected with a trained advocate who will answer any of her questions. After connecting with your local crisis center, research recovery groups and ask for referrals. She needs to know that she is not alone. Hearing the stories of other survivors helps to heal self-blame and shame. I also highly recommend Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse by Dr. Patti Feuereisen as a recovery companion.

4. Engage her in discussions about the media. Help her dismantle messages that reinforce sexual objectification. Verbal abuse expert, Patricia Evans, says that verbal abuse occurs when someone “tells lies about who you are.” Mainstream media constantly tells lies about who girls are. Make sure that she can critically engage with representations of girls and women that emphasize their value as sexual commodities. For excellent feminist critiques of pop culture in a teen-friendly space, check out Bitch Magazine. SPARK is an innovative organization helping girls differentiate between sexuality and sexualization.

5. Talk about healthy relationships. Surviving sexual assault is one of greatest predictors for your teen to eventually experience some form of relationship violence. Be pro-active in discussing the difference between an abusive and a respectful relationship. Model this in your own life and refer her to loveisrespect.org as well as the sex-positive teen site Scarleteen.com.

6. Honor her boundaries. Ask for permission before touching or hugging the survivor. It is important that she feel in control of her body at all times. You can discuss safety planning, but make sure that you do not take away her freedoms out of your own fear. Check out the Circle of 6, a cutting-edge app that will help her stay safe.

7. Never blame the survivor. Remind her that it is not her fault. She did whatever she needed to in order to survive. Ultimately, the greatest gift you can give is to be a patient, empathetic listener. To learn the basics of empathetic listening, read a book such as Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD.

Be gentle with yourself and your teen during this time of recovery. Self-care is essential for both of you. Do not hesitate to reach out to a counselor or rape crisis center for support as you process what has happened. Sexual assault is devastating, but there is hope for those who choose a healing path.

The importance of self-care

Small Acts of Self-Care as an Intentional Practice, via Everyday Feminism:

Standing in front of the mirror counting and cataloging frustrations.

Lying in bed staring at the ceiling, running list after list of what didn’t happen that could have, or what wouldn’t happen because it couldn’t.

Sound familiar?

It’s all normal.

The list of frustrations can include anything from the simplicity of not taking out the trash to the complexity of giving in when boundaries have already been set.

The thing is, without perspective, everything is personal, and this makes it easy to beat up an already bruised existence.

So maybe it’s time to change the way you look at yourself.

Think about it. How much more can you see from a second or third floor window than you can from the first floor? It’s the same with who we are.

If we never look at ourselves through a different frame, we’ll always appear the same.

If we stare at ourselves in front of the mirror or lie in our beds all of the time thinking the same self-deprecating thoughts, we’ll never set ourselves up for a new kind of series where we catalogue all of the ordinary that makes us extraordinary.

Now, the beauty of perspective is that it isn’t necessarily a given, which means that it can be cultivated.

Why is this great?

Because it means that if we don’t like ourselves today or if we like ourselves, but want to like ourselves even more, then we can learn how.

So here are three steps you can use to shift perspective, care for yourself, and find the time to do so.

Step 1. Think Greater Purpose

To write a book, create a piece of art, perform choreography or a Greek tragedy, there are hours and hours of drafts, sketches, and rehearsals poured in over time – days, weeks, months, and even years.

On average, a marathon runner’s pace of writing a book is about sixteen hours per week over a nine- or ten-month period.

Writing a book is hard work.

It’s iteration after iteration, and what sustains you is the greater purpose – the motivation behind it.

So you have to want to take care of yourself.

Most people think it’s selfish to practice self-care when there are husbands, wives, children, and chores to take care of.

Caring for the self feels egotistical – or at least hedonistic.

And maybe that has something to do with how we were raised in our society, but maybe not.

Think of the writer from before.

For the author to dedicate sixteen hours per week to writing, they have to believe in the greater purpose of what they’re doing.

If we could see the greater purpose of tending to our needs, then maybe we’d be more willing and likely to do it.

When we care for ourselves, the greater purpose attached to that is the well-being of ourselves and others.

The better we care for ourselves, the more we are able to give to others willingly.

To understand this, think of ignoring your wants to please your partner or someone else.

What happens?

You get annoyed at yourself for putting your needs to the side, but you also get frustrated with the person you’ve allowed to take center stage.

The more you let others needs come before your own, the more you’ll resent them for it.

Tending to ourselves makes interactions less an act of self-sacrifice and more of an enjoyment, something to look forward to.

So the greater purpose is to be a better friend, wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son, person.

The greater purpose is to be present while talking to your partner, listening to what they have to say, to enjoy time spent with your family, to interact authentically in relationships.

Taking care of ourselves means we improve our relationships with others.

With the motivation to care for ourselves cemented, how do we then put it in motion?

Step 2. Time for Practice

When I was growing up, I played a lot of sports. And I had practice every day after school.

Practice was there to prepare us for games, which then pushed us even further in our development to go on to regionals, then state, then nationals.

While I understood this concept in relation to sports, I never thought about it in terms of who I was.

I simply thought that I was already supposed to be great at being myself.

But what I learned is that just like sports, caring for myself is a practice.

Self-care rituals will be different for each person.

So to figure out what works for you, start asking questions.

How do you want to be cared for? What kind of activities are nurturing to you? What are things that make you feel good? What are memories of things you’ve done that made you feel good?

Start brainstorming.

After a couple minutes, take another piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write “Small Acts of Self-Care,” and on the other side, write“Big Acts of Self-Care.”

Pull from your brainstorm.

Some things that would be under the small acts may be putting on lotion after a shower, pouring yourself a cup of tea, smiling at yourself in the mirror. Some bigger acts could be enrolling in a martial arts class, taking a walk, buying a new pillow, throwing out what doesn’t make you feel good.

The idea is that the more you practice the smaller acts of self-care, the larger acts will start to seem small as well.

Once the list is complete, pick four acts, one for each week of the month, and commit to doing them.

When the month is over, assess how you feel.

What will likely happen is that you’ll feel like you had more time during the month than you’ve had in the past.

And the reason is because by taking a bit of time for yourself, the time you spend with others is now quality.

Step 3. Work with the Time You Have 

For any want or achievement, you have to find the time to practice.

Whenever I talk about carving out time, I always hear something to the effect of“But I don’t even have enough time to carve out of!”

And yes, it might feel like that.

Here’s the kicker though: You do.

No one can ignore their responsibilities, but you do have control over how you use your time.

So here are some ways that you can use the hours that you already have in a day to build in some self-care:

At Work

  • Not everything is urgent: Prioritize what is urgent. Divide it from what is non-urgent, or what needs to be done today versus what can feasibly be done tomorrow.
  • Actually take your lunch break instead of working through it. Go for a walk or to a dance class. Sit in the park or read a book. Take the hour for you.
  • Say no if you don’t want more responsibility.
  • Before turning on your computer, say three things that you’re grateful for. Or keep naming things that you’re thankful for while your computer warms up and turns on. See how many you can come up with!
  • If you have your own office, put on a song and get up and dance for a couple minutes. Or do it even if you share a cubicle!
  • Stop gossiping and judging other people.
  • At the end of the day, take a minute to clean up your work space. Maybe splurge on some fresh flowers to put in a vase to brighten your day.
  • After you shut your computer down for the day, sit in your chair, close your eyes, and take five deep breaths.

At Home

  • Again: Not everything is urgent. Prioritization is key.
  • Say no if you’re not in the mood to get a drink with friends, have people over for dinner, or go out.
  • Make your bed. Get some decorative throw pillows if they’ll make you smile.
  • Take time to do something artsy, like drawing or putting on music and dancing around.
  • While you’re washing dishes or brushing your teeth, tell yourself three things you like about yourself. Try to come up with different ideas every day.
  • Before going to sleep, close your eyes and think of a happy memory.
  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, close your eyes and think about what kind of day you want to have, maybe choosing some positive words to keep in mind for the day. Listen to your emotions and what they are telling you.

Even small acts of self-care can be revolutionary. Don’t be afraid to take some time for you.

There are challenges to putting the above into practice, the biggest one probably being time.

But the more we learn how to see ourselves as something to nourish, the more we practice, and the more time we feel we have.

Happy V-Day!

It’s time to dance, dance, dance to end violence!  Stay tuned, we will post some pictures and videos from our One Billion Rising events next week.

PS:  Valentine’s Day is about love, and that includes loving yourself.  Love yourself, accept yourself, and be kind to yourself today (and every day).  You do not have to be in a relationship today to feel love.