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In light of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we write this letter to survivors. Society and media tend to focus on the abuser, which is important and necessary to hold people accountable. However, we do not hear or see enough messages intended with survivors in mind. Let’s change that. We hope this letter can be a model of how we talk to survivors, and if you are a survivor, we hope this letter makes you feel loved. Because you are.

Dear Survivor,

We are glad you’re here. Thank you for being vulnerable with me. We are sorry for the trauma you have endured — you did not deserve it. It was not your fault. It does not matter what you were wearing, if you were drunk, or if your abuser was a friend, family member, spouse, or colleague. We will say this as many times as you need to hear it. This was not, and never will be, your fault. I believe you.

Let’s check in with your breath; take a deep breath in and exhale slowly. Repeat as many times as you need.

It is your choice to decide how you want to proceed with recovering from this experience and we are here to assist you every step of the way. This is happening to more people than we talk about. You are not alone. Everything you are feeling is valid. This was not, and never will be, your fault. We believe you. We accept you, and we will not judge you. Be patient with yourself and lean into those emotions. This is how we heal. Take a moment to accept the feeling that is coming up.

Let’s check-in with your body; move your legs around, move your torso side-to-side and front to back, give yourself a hug, move your head and shoulders, move as it feels good for you.

Right now, you may feel frozen by your experience. Your experience does not define you. You may want to run away. Run here. You might feel angry. You have every right in feeling that way. The effects of trauma affect everyone differently. Your experience could affect your ability to stay grounded and be present. Your mind might drift to deep levels of self-doubt — inviting the effects of fear, which distance you from the support you deserve. You are surviving. You are not broken. You are not defective. This was not, and never will be, your fault. We believe you. It is sometimes challenging to connect and feel safe with others when you feel you are holding your trauma with you everywhere you go. You decide how and when to share your story, and you are not obligated to voice your experience without feeling affirmed in doing so. If you find that substances are helping in managing high levels of anxiety and distress, we are here to help you observe those patterns and develop new ways to cope.

Let’s check in with your thoughts; this is not your fault, we believe you, you are loved, you are supported, and you can feel safe again. The Anti-Violence Project at Center on Halsted are here to provide compassionate support during your time of healing.

Once again, this was not, and never will be, your fault. I believe you. We believe you.

We know it can be hard to read about violence and sexual assault. We see you. If you need support in these difficult times, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project at Center on Halsted.

The Anti-Violence Project at Center on Halsted empowers LGBTQ communities and allies to be free from all forms of violence and their effects through free counseling, resource linkage, advocacy, education, and community engagement. If you or someone you know are currently feeling unsafe, targeted, triggered, or isolated, we can help. We are available Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm via our resource line (773–871–2273) and email avp@centeronhalsted.org. Our services can also be accessed via our no appointment needed walk-in hours on Monday and Friday from 10am to noon.

Join us in supporting survivors by donating to Center on Halsted to ensure we can continue the work that the Anti-Violence Project team is doing.

This blog has been adapted from an earlier version written by a former staff member at Center on Halsted, Ashwini Krishnakumar.

Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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