For many, the holidays are a time full of joy, food, and loved ones. For sexual assault survivors, this can be a time of joy and crisis. Christina Enevoldsen, a sexual assault survivor, states, "When I remember holidays with my family of origin, I think of stress. The image that comes to mind is everyone else laughing and having a great time, while I was miserable."
Many survivors deal with complex feelings about family members and close friends that affect their mood during the holidays. These feelings can stem from the family's lack of support of the survivor, or a family member could have been the perpetrator of the assault.
According to RAINN's statistics, only 7% of survivors were assaulted by a stranger. The other leaves 93% of assaults were committed by someone known to the survivor.
Sexual assault survivors might find it harder to cope with the holiday festivities because the assault was most likely committed by someone who might attend, or who is known by those attending. Below we have a list of tips to support survivors through the holidays.
If any survivor finds themselves in crisis they can call our 24/7 hotline(757-236-5260) to receive support.
Tips For Surviving the Holidays as a Survivor.
To any survivor who is reading through these tips remember to trust your instincts. Every survivor is different. It is okay if one of these tips doesn't work for you. Remember the goal is for you to feel safe, and to stay well this holiday session.
Do What’s Best for You
Sometimes, survivors can feel pressure from their friends or family to do certain things during the holidays. It is important to remember that survivors should do what is best for them during the holidays. For some, this might involve not partaking in traditions, even if they feel outside pressure to do so. For others, this might involve enjoying holiday traditions and using tips to stay emotionally well. No matter where a survivor falls on the spectrum, it is important for them to do what is best for them during the holiday season.
Create An Emotional Safety Plan
Emotional safety plans don't have to be extensive. They can be as simple as a list of things a survivor can do to calm themselves during a crisis. These can include taking a walk, doing stretches, or even creating a plan to safely leave the situation. An emotional safety plan can be written on a survivor's phone or somewhere they can access quickly in a crisis.
Meet with Supporters Before and/or After the Holidays
Oftentimes, the holidays might feel overwhelming if survivors do not have anything to look forward to. Creating a fun outing (even if it's just a movie night or short dinner) with supporters to celebrate the holidays can help lift a survivor's spirits. Remember: It is okay to create new traditions!
Create A Plan with a Supporter
Before celebrating holidays survivors can find a supporter and explain the situation. The supporter can then validate a survivor's experiences, remind a survivor of their emotional safety plan, and/or even direct the survivor to our 24/7 hotline to receive more support. If the supporter will be at a holiday celebration with the survivor they can check out this document for how to support survivors at holiday gatherings.
Plan a Response for Assault Related Questions
For some survivors, the holidays are full of questions that may be well-intentioned but can cause anxiety. It can be helpful for survivors to think of answers to some assault-related questions that may arise. Remember, survivors do not have to answer any question they are uncomfortable with.
Be Kind to Yourself
Survivors may feel guilt over not enjoying the holiday season, or not returning to post-assault traditions. Tom North, a domestic violence survivor, states, "I didn’t understand how we could sustain such a horrible emotional environment in the household and still celebrate Christmas as if everything was fine. Then, I’d feel horribly guilty and ashamed because I was supposed to be happy, and I wasn’t." It is important to remember that prioritizing self-care is a good thing, and survivors deserve support. Using positive self-talk can be helpful for survivors.
Throughout this holiday season remember you are not alone. You can always call The Center's 24/7 Hotline for support at 757-236-5260.