When Is It a Good Time to Discuss Abuse?

My birthday was about a week ago. I enjoyed time with family (wrangled fussy children through getting a Christmas tree), food (made my own supper and cake, which, thankfully, the natives loved), and leisure (binged on a new video game until way too late). I also got to consult on an emergent abuse case involving a starving pregnant mother–because there is never a bad time to discuss issues of abuse.

Let me clarify: there are FREQUENTLY bad times for a VICTIM to mention abuse. Victims are likely to be shunned, scorned, or shushed no matter where or when they share their story. There is never a “good time” for a survivor to speak up, tell the truth, or ask for help because mostly others fail provide a safe listening ear, and it’s terribly hard to predict who, if anyone, will be a trustworthy confidant.

In order to help survivors, we must work to change the culture so that it is never a bad time for THE REST OF US to discuss issues of abuse.

I hyperbolize, of course. No, I’m not going to take a consulting phone call while on a bathroom run. If you send a message asking for help in the middle of the night, you probably won’t hear back from me until after I’ve fed my kids breakfast the next morning. Sure; we are human; the rest of life also must be dealt with. Even on my birthday I put the phone down for awhile and let others carry the conversation while I finished putting my cake together.

The point is, we usually just shut down the entire topic as soon as it’s raised: either by ignoring/failing to respond or by hurriedly excusing ourselves. It is never easy to engage. It is always a hard subject to face. But if we don’t begin by choosing one of those awkward, discomfiting moments to lean into, we never will. Because EVERY such moment is unpleasant. There is NEVER a time when it will be “good” for us. But any time we do, it is beyond good for the survivor.

And the baseline wellbeing of that woman or man or child is more important than any fleeting discomfort I might have at facing a particle of their reality and seeking any small way that I might be able to help.

There is never a “bad time” for me to discuss issues of abuse–even if, realistically speaking, it might take me a little to get back to you about it. I invite you to join me in creating a culture where we tell survivors, “No, it’s not a bad time. What’s going on? How can I help?” And then listen, and listen, and listen.

You may find that, even at its worst, it costs you far less than what it costs survivors when we don’t.

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