by Teresia Smith
Have you ever wondered what we mean when we talk about finding community and why it is important? We belong to various communities, such as work, church, family or even a neighborhood. Those are all important in our daily life; however, the community I am talking about is a group of individuals connected to each other by one or more experiences and the ingredient that links them together is at the center of the group. This describes a support group.
A community is a group of folks that are affected by a commonality; in our support groups, that common thread may be surviving sexual assault or domestic violence. A community is people coming together to encourage and support each other in the fight to overcome those things which affect each of them. This is a benefit of participating in a support group. As human beings, we need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the many relationships we acquire. A community of support is essential to healing, especially if you are a survivor of trauma.
Riché C. Zamor says, “While most people need to be part of a community for life’s necessities, most people want to be part of a community because there is something indescribably lovely about being a part of a group of people who share something more substantial than geographical location. . . something they feel passionately about. Something that, when shared, makes individuals seem less lonely. A community is a safe place.”
Often, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence stuff many of their feelings down inside and do not have a safe place to unpack and work through those feelings. As a result, they suffer with various health issues and often make poor choices as they attempt to cope. Having a community that supports you through your trauma can make all the difference. You must face the emotions you feel so that you can work through them and move forward. A support group can often provide that safe place to feel what you feel. Dr. Edith Eger once said, “What I always wanted to do is to create an atmosphere…; I want them to feel perfectly safe to identify and feel any emotion they have, to know that is just what they are – emotions- and when we allow ourselves to feel our pain and honor it, we become stronger. Stretch your comfort zone and become stronger.”
Survivors often think they can just push their feelings aside and forget what happened to them. And for a short time, that may feel like it is working. However, at some point the feelings will surface and demand to be heard. After an assault, it’s hard to pull out the memories and examine them. But it’s important to face what happened. Dr. Eger shared this thought about facing what happened, “To go back to the lion’s den, look the lion in the face, feel my rage, and assign the guilt to the perpetrators was imperative to becoming who I am today.”
If you are a survivor of sexual assault or domestic violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to you. We provide a safe place to unpack your feelings and work to heal. We provide crisis counseling as well as support groups. You may reach our Jackson County office at 256.574.5826 or our HELPline trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 256.716.1000. Find your community. You are not alone.