Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

Find Your Tribe
by Teresia Smith

Feelings of loneliness and isolation are widespread in our society today, especially as we emerge from Covid-19 seclusion. I talk to so many who express that they just wished they had someone with which to talk. People are hurting but can’t share their pain, so they turn inwards and often end up in depression.
Social media deceives us into thinking we have many friends we can turn to in our time of need, but reality is that many times they are just names on a computer screen. Often you have never met many of your social media friends. So when you experience trauma, such as that from domestic or sexual violence, do you have a supportive circle to turn to? Being part of a support group can provide a safe environment where you can feel heard, supported, and encouraged in your journey towards healing from trauma.

Crisis Services of North Alabama offers support groups for those whose lives have been impacted by sexual assault and domestic violence. Our goal is to bring together survivors who seek community, empowerment, and a healing process. How we move through our lives is our own choice; however, it is a journey we do not have to do alone. Healing can come from being part of a group, whether that is a discussion group, a community service group, or even a healing arts group. The key is being connected.

Support group involvement has been shown to lessen feelings of isolation and shame that often burden victims of sexual or domestic violence. Support groups have also been found to help connect survivors with positive social supports and a safe place to work through their healing process. Social support plays a critical role in healing from sexual or domestic violence. According to researchers Leech & Littlefield, a 2011 study shows that social support can help to shield a survivor from some of the stress that domestic violence or sexual trauma can cause. Support groups represent one of the main ways for survivors to gain structured social support after experiencing violence, and these groups can be an effective resource to help survivors on their journey to recovery. The research shows social support leads to more positive outcomes for survivors of sexual or domestic violence. Generally, it can influence survivors by helping them to develop positive coping skills, thus reducing negative effects of the trauma. Also, social support serves as a protective factor, helping domestic or sexual violence survivors deal with depression or low self-esteem. Having social support also helps to empower survivors to take care of themselves and re-establish feelings of self-worth.

Support groups provide a space for individuals who have had similar traumatic experiences to come together, share their stories, gain support from others who understand and support one another through the healing process. By disclosing personal experiences in a group setting, survivors’ experiences are normalized as members are able to observe how others struggle with many of the same challenges (Chew, 1998). If nothing else, support groups allow survivors to realize they are not alone and just by being in a group setting, feelings of isolation, shame, secrecy, and stigmatization from the violence are weakened. Research overall suggests that support group participation in response to domestic or sexual violence provides a forum for expressing feelings, to increase social support as a way of healing (whether received or given), and to instill hope in survivors (Bringham, 1994).

Maybe you grew up in a violent home or experienced dating violence. Maybe you were sexually abused as a child or a teen. Or maybe these things have occurred in your adult life. If you or a loved one have experienced intimate partner violence or sexual assault at any time and would like to participate in a support group, please contact Crisis Services of North Alabama Jackson County office at 256-574-5826 for more information. New groups are forming soon. You are not alone.

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