Giving Back to the Community
The word “survivor” is defined in a variety of ways. It is often used interchangeably with the word “victim,” depending on who is defining it and their level of experience with abuse. If you are a survivor of domestic violence, you, like many others, believe that there is a distinct difference between a victim and a survivor. According to Hidden Hurt, surviving isn’t just about living through the day to day abuse, it means that you have escaped an abusive relationship, one that many were not able to. You have chosen that, despite the abuse, you are moving forward to a positive and healthy lifestyle. You have learned from your hurt, accepted you are not to blame, and may have a desire to make a difference in the lives of those who are still victims or recovering survivors.
Those who have survived domestic violence are often driven to help others recover from abuse. Survivors have first hand, personal knowledge of the mental, physical, and coercive control that dominates an abusive relationship. You understand the cycle, the isolation, the confusion, the reasons you couldn’t leave, and the re-victimization that often occurs after leaving the abuser. You have felt lonely as if no-one can help you or understand what you are going through. You have the power and the passion to make a change in the lives of others who are experiencing what you have survived.
So, how can you make a difference in your community and in the lives of those impacted by domestic violence? You have many options to make a difference, starting with sharing your story. There are many organizations that encourage survivors to share their stories with others. Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTSADV) focuses on the fact that when survivors break their silence, they empower others that have been in similar situations to do the same. Every story matters, and telling yours helps spread awareness, helps personal healing, and lets those that feel alone know that they are not.
As a survivor, you have most likely noticed the variety of organizations that work with domestic violence victims and survivors. Many of these places offer a variety of volunteer opportunities. Often times, these volunteers are people who have survived domestic violence and have the drive and desire to make a difference in the lives of others. There is no better person to talk to about abusive experiences, emotional trauma, and recovery than a survivor. If you are wanting to volunteer, the options are infinite and range from virtual positions, helplines, fundraising, and in-person contact with victims. Survivors can help with office duties, daycare, shelters, writing blogs, education, victim advocacy, and more. Researching local domestic violence organizations or visiting websites such as BTSADV, or Volunteer Match can help you find volunteer work that best suits your abilities and interests.
Becoming a survivor is a process, one that requires healing, acceptance, and the understanding that you are not to blame. Not all survivors are ready to help others. Volunteering can be triggering, bring up personal experiences that are difficult to remember, and can impact you negatively if you are not yet healed. At the same time, volunteering can also be healing for a survivor, getting a chance to speak out, relate to victims, and watch others as they recover and become survivors themselves. You, as a survivor have the ability to help others share their stories, get through their pain, and heal so that they too can help others. According to Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” You have the power and the inside knowledge to make that change, you are a survivor.
If you’re interested in volunteering with Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, visit: https://breakthesilencedv.org/volunteer/.