what does it look like to ask your community to bear witness?
opening up the conversation
Circles of impact, support and relation
people of impact
COMMUNITY + support
folks of influence
A good place to start when imagining who we might engage in this conversation is to create a mental map of the supportive people and systems already in our lives.
Questions to consider:
Who is supportive of your healing in your close circles? Maybe a family member, friend, partner, a relative, a coworker, a creative partner, spiritual kin, someone you talk to you often, someone you used to be close with, someone you trust.
Who might want to learn more? Someone who has been with you along the journey - or someone new who exhibits genuine interest and care.
Who was impacted by the experience you had, who was in your life when you experienced the trauma?
Who is in your life now? Maybe you're not incredibly close with this person yet, though they've shown up in ways that indicate that they're interested in learning and growing, are supportive and are an ally.
REMEMBER HOW WE INTRODUCE OURSELVES during conversations? THOSE DEFINITIONS MIGHT BE HELPFUL TOO
I have someone in my life or at a distance who has experienced intimate harm; I’m learning the language and tools to support them
I work to support and elevate people who have
suffered intimate harm; I’m looking to calibrate my support
I am a member of this community, which makes me a stakeholder in healing harm; I have the capacity to influence the culture of responses or systems of support survivors interact with
Having trouble thinking of someone?
Don't feel supported by the folks around you right now?
We've felt that way too.
The experience of surviving intimate trauma is most often an experience of isolation, and that isolation can last for years in the wake of the trauma. It's ok if you don't have someone now - this process is intended to grow your network of support.
We also acknowledge the power of vicarious allyship - being in conversation with those we don't know who represent or stand in for those we do. We are all part of the human community, and when someone shows up to sit with the trouble - whether we know them already or not - we can experience their allyship, validation and acknowledgement, and that medicine can be powerful.
There is no right or wrong person, there is just connection and understanding, and whether or not you are in place to bring someone - you can experience those sensations within the context of the group.
"I asked my partner to come, but he wouldn't do it. When I came to the conversation, someone else had brought their partner. At first I felt embarrassed, where was my support? But by the end, I found myself almost aiming my words at this stranger - for me he took on the mantle of all the people, all the partners I couldn't share with, all the polite folks who were curious but never asked, everyone I wanted to talk to but could never reach. And when he nodded I felt seen, and when he asked questions I felt heard. I realized he was my community, because everyone is."
- survivor participant
remember, you are in the driver's seat
We can go about this conversation in so many different ways - it's completely up to you.
Most importantly - we want to establish boundaries and bumpers that will make this unique conversation sessions safe and comfortable for everyone involved.
So how do we do that? To give you an idea of one way that we could structure the involvement of allies and community members, take a look at how we typically moderate engagement and practice our community norms and values with a slightly scaled up group.
We want to give everyone a chance to share, if that's what the group decides. However we also recognize an existing power dynamic that we are attempting to correct for. Often when survivors share their stories, those listening jump to advice and action, independent of the survivor and without understanding or consent. For many this is overwhelming, and can inhibit further discourse. To account for this cultural tendency, we like to put in place a structure that centers survivors, emphasizes listening, validation and acknowledgement, and allots specific time for ally engagement.
Use pronouns and names as identified when addressing someone
Stories stay in the room; they are not yours to tell without express permission and consent from the individual
This is a survivor designed and centered conversation. Allies and collaborators will actively listen & contribute according to the conversation design
Participants have the choice to participate in ways that are most comfortable for them, while understanding that we connect, learn and heal through our shared lived experiences
- Participants are encouraged to validate and acknowledge what they are hearing with their body language and words, take notes for themselves on what surprises or moves them, communicate their questions to further their understanding and honor and cultivate the authenticity and vulnerability in the room
- Participants are encouraged to embrace words and tones that support, care for and empathize. Language or tones that blame, shame, doubt, judge or criticize survivors or their behavior will not be tolerated.
- Resource Moments: when moments occur where myths, misunderstandings, or untrue and potentially harmful statements or questions arise, the moderator may call a resource moment, and we will make a note to address this content later on with greater depth and intention, or apply further educational resources outside of the session. If something arises that is particularly dangerous, aggressive or inappropriate, the moderator may mute or remove a participant from the space, though this is extremely rare