Inclusiveness in healing communities

One of the strengths of a survivor community such as a support group or non-profit agency is common ground. Women who have survived abuse share a bond that transcends age, race and economic status. The more inclusive we can be in our communities, the stronger we become. We have much to benefit from each other’s strengths. Our combined stories create a legacy that becomes more powerful with each contribution. When we are united as survivors we can promote much more awareness and community support than as individuals.
It is essential that the community effort offer diverse representation. Although survivors share many common factors, there are also factors that are unique to cultural background, poverty, race, age sexual orientation and gender identity. There are many patterns to abusive behavior, but those patterns play out differently based on individual and cultural factors. In order to provide a holistic and unified approach to prevention and healing, we must put aside our biases and assumptions and truly listen to one another’s stories.
It is my hope to create a forum where all survivors can feel comfortable to speak their truth openly, and to ask questions of one another. Our persistent misunderstanding of one another’s cultural and individual differences is too often perpetuated by the fear of asking questions and speaking openly and honestly, to have the courage to admit what we don’t know. This fear is often ironically the result of a sense of political correctness that warns us against appearing ignorant or, worse yet, of offending someone.
Of course it is possible that someone may take offense in this situation, especially if we forget basic boundaries and communication skills. Within a group setting, this issue can be addressed at the onset, when the group’s guidelines are being established. I always prefer to have group members establish their own guidelines at the first meeting; this helps them to take ownership for the group process and to establish a pattern of value for individual contribution to the whole. On a more informal or personal level I find it’s best to have these conversations within a relationship that has established some level of comfort and mutual respect. A sense of humor is a valuable tool, especially the ability to be able to laugh at ourselves. Offer to share any questions the other individual has about your culture, generation, lifestyle etc. Of course we must be willing to accept that others may not want to respond to our inquiries at that time or to certain issues. To get back to the group setting it can be useful to have an entire group session devoted to understanding diversity. This is especially true if there is already some tension within the group.
Having the shared identity of survivors offers us an opportunity to open the doors of communication to begin to understand our differences, and by breaking barriers and stigma we become a stronger more cohesive force for change.
©2010 Jennifer Hazard, Nanakoosa’s Place

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About nanakoosa

Me...I am a trained Advocate and Counselor with 20 years experience working with Youth and Families. My most recent employment brought me to the field of Domestic and Sexual Violence Counseling and support. I myself am a Survivor of violence and have been on both side of the service desk, which provides for a unique, often conflicting, theoretical orientation. I am a regular blogger, journal keeper and story teller. My current focus is to give voice to the experiences of survivors, to shine some light in the dark corners of family life where all the spiders and creepy things hide. I also enjoy writing about my unconventional childhood in the tumultuous 60's and am dabbling in memoir writing. I have three wonderful children, two fabulous granddaughters and an assortment of pets. View all posts by nanakoosa

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