Below is a short discussion inspired by Tarana Burke on this episode of Unlocking Us with Brené Brown.
Sexual abuse is a sensitive topic across cultures and races. Survivors today still struggle to find their own voice. But when we take shame and judgment out of the conversation, we can let them speak freely. We can empower survivors to heal and speak up.
On this episode of Unlocking Us with Brené Brown, Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke discusses ways we can help survivors of sexual abuse to come forward and ultimately heal from their trauma.
We can set the stage for proper discourse by removing shame, deepening our understanding, and cultivating empathy:
- Remove shame. Survivors experience shame from within and even their surroundings. This can be due to their culture and upbringing, or even through comments on social media. When we show willingness to listen to survivors without judgment, we encourage and empower them to speak freely.
- Deepen our understanding. Socio-cultural factors may prevent a survivor from speaking up. When we understand that different communities are impacted by sexual abuse differently, we can better understand where survivors are coming from.
- Cultivate empathy. When we work through our own pain and trauma, we can understand the struggles of others better. We can connect with survivors through the pain we share. Together, we can help each other heal.
When we practice empathy within ourselves and cultivate it within the community, we can remove the shame around sexual abuse and overcome socio-cultural barriers. When we set the proper stage for discussion, we can empower survivors to speak out because they will be confident that are seen and heard.
the distilld lessons
These are the distilld lessons from Episode #2, "Tarana Burke and Brené
on Being Heard and Seen", of Unlocking Us.
In 2006, Tarana Burke first posted the words "Me Too" on her MySpace account to draw attention to sexual abuses against women of color. Now, it has grown into a global movement supporting survivors of sexual abuse.
When sexual abuse survivors feel shame, they become trapped in a state of self-blame where they think their abuse was their fault.
It’s only through tearing down the wall of shame that survivors can heal. When we remove the shame of abuse, we take the blame out of the survivor.
We can get rid of shame by showing survivors that we see them and hear them. We can empower survivors by our willingness to listen to their stories without judgment.
Survivors speak out in their own time and at their own pace. Socio-cultural factors and personal reasons may also be at play. We should never judge survivors.
Race is something to consider when it comes to sexual violence. Black women are the second-highest group of people experiencing sexual abuse, next only to indigenous women.
We must address the individual needs of survivors. We can do this by understanding their context.
Ending sexual violence requires ending the culture that perpetrates it. We should recognize how we contribute to rape culture to actively work against it.
Cultivate empathy within. When we work through our own struggles, we can understand the struggles of others better. We can empathize with what survivors are going through. Together, we can help each other heal.
- Listen to survivors of sexual abuse. Talking about the trauma of sexual abuse is difficult. When survivors decide to do this, it’s important that we listen without judgment and help unburden them with any internal shame they may have.
- Call them “survivors”, not “victims.” When we focus our language on their survival rather than their trauma, we can empower them and let them know that we see how they are able to heal from their abuse.
- Be empathetic and compassionate. Sexual violence is traumatic. We can help in the healing of survivors if we show them they are seen and heard.
- Demand for justice, not revenge. The vicious cycle of sexual abuse needs to stop. It can only stop when we work together towards ending rape culture.
- Understand that communities experience sexual abuse differently. When we add context to the stories of survivors, we will be better equipped in lending the kind of support they need.
For a more in depth conversation, the distilld lessons (extended) are here.