CHEYENNE TYLER JACOBS | CONTRIBUTOR AND FOUNDER OF SHE WILL SPEAK SERIES
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault and Violence.
I have typed and re-typed this introduction at least 50 times because I am not sure how many times we need to say, “we need to do a hell of a lot more for survivors”. I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine during one of our creative accountability meetings. The conversation (like most of my conversations) takes numerous twists and turns and we ended up talking about sexual violence and survivorship. As a survivor this topic weighs especially heavy on me but I am personally at a stage in my healing where I can use my story and give my energy for positive change.
I was expressing to them my concern for understanding transgenerational trauma, being trauma informed, and healing while processing with survivors. As a survivor, I personally felt abandoned because I felt the proper resources needed to support me were non-existent. With the knowledge that I have now, I recognize as a young Black woman, that many people did not even know how to support me.
Now before you keep scrolling…hear me out because this is the real tea right here. So first I would like to mention the three points mentioned above are all interconnected:
- Understanding transgenerational Trauma
- Being trauma-informed
So you may be asking yourself, why do any of these points matter to me when helping someone or having the conversation on sexual violence prevention and survivor healing? Well first and foremost, if that was your first thought, that is exactly why all these points are relevant. Trauma can be looked at as a spectrum and too often we do not realize that an individual’s experiences with trauma can extend to lengths prior to our first encounter with the survivor.
We have to move ourselves out of the way and have a conversation from a place of looking to understand how past and transgenerational trauma is impacting an individual that is going through the process of sexual violence healing. Understanding transgenerational trauma is understanding how someone might have experienced violence within their home and that the coping mechanisms that they developed as a child will impact the current trauma they have experienced. The past and current trauma are not isolated incidents but in fact on the same continuous line.
I know that this may be a completely different perspective but that is okay!
Continuing to our next point of needing to be trauma informed! So you recognize that the trauma is present, well what do you do now?
Now this is going to shake some people but… support the Survivor. Meaning listen to them and do not impose your wants on their healing process. Why? Well, this is where you can and most likely would be retraumatizing and revictimizing the individual. Let me give you an example close to me:
Many Black women are unlikely to report sexual assault due to a lack of trust in the justice system. So continuously giving “reporting” as the only solution to a Black victim of sexual violence is a big biggg biggggggg NOOOO! Literally, that is going to push that individual further away from wanting to seek resources because the idea of healing seems to be contingent with reporting. This is an example of the need to be trauma informed because you are essentially forcing a choice that the individual may not want to take.
And finally… Healing. An essential part of the process that many times gets overlooked in particular when an individual is looking to go through the court process. There needs to be a balance of having resources focusing on the court process and empowering the individual’s journey to THEIR healing.
As a Black Woman who is a sexual violence survivor I am proud of how far the movement has come but we still have a long journey. We need to share more space and include other individuals at the table. Stories like mine often go unheard due to the lack of care that is needed to support us. Well it is time for us to have those conversations and consciously do the work to properly support survivors.