What follows are some suggestions for what a supporter may do to help a survivor with some of the specific effects of organised ritual abuse. It is neither comprehensive nor set in stone. Every individual survivor will have differing needs, experience different effects or the same consequences in different ways. Thus, what helps each individual will differ and what helps any one individual may also change with time and circumstances.
Supporting survivors of organised ritual abuse is essentially no different from supporting any other survivor of violence. LISTEN – BELIEVE – DON’T JUDGE – DON’T TRY TO FIX THEM. Give the time & space needed to work out together how the survivor wants to deal with what has happened to them.
With thanks and due acknowledgement for the following bulleted summary for supporting ritual abuse survivors excerpted from Matthew, L, Who Dares Wins, Dundee Young Womens Centre, 2001. First Person Plural knows that survivors of organised ritual abuse can be male or female. The feminine pronouns in the list are as per the original.
- Don’t Panic
- Believe what you hear
- Use good sound support skills – listening, believing, validating and empowering
- Don’t get caught up in the fear of the survivor
- Be calm, encouraging and confident
- Reassure survivors that they can get away (in reality if still involved, or in emotional reality if already physically away]
- Ensure you have support for yourself; don’t isolate yourself
- Don’t keep secrets from the survivor about herself (if she tells you something then forget its, tell her what she told you if she asks]
- Be clear, direct and honest. Say if you have problems in supporting her
- Be aware of the possibility of multiplicity (DID) but don’t go looking for it
- Remember getting out of the abusive situation is a process, not a single event
- Encourage survivors to sever links with abusers
- Be aware that survivors so called ‘choices’ to hurt others were made under extreme duress and thus were not real choices at all.
- Be aware that there is always a wider picture when you hear part of the experience
- This is the survivor’s journey not yours. If you are having feelings you are finding difficult – deal with them – get support for yourself
- Find out about other resources for the survivor and for you
- Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
- Be clear about agreed boundaries and stick to them
- Be prepared to be tested a lot, especially at first
- Don’t over-react, over-protect, try to rescue the survivor or ‘fix’ them – s/he has to find his/her own unique way through to a self-sufficient and independent rest of his/her life. You won’t help by wrapping her in cotton wool all the time.