GETTING SUPPORT IN A CRISIS
Why is getting support so important? There are many reasons:
- Two features of a crisis are a sense of threat and a feeling of not coping. You need some support to help you 'over the rapids.'
- Any support you build now will stand you in good stead throughout the journey. Even when you're not in a crisis, getting support is an essential part of recovery.
- Abuse tends to occur in secrecy and isolation. It's important to try to break this pattern. Getting support does this.
- Men often feel that they have got to 'go it alone,' even in the most challenging situations. It's hard to recover from what happened when you were a boy without reaching out for some extra help. This is never more true than in a crisis.
So, what exactly is this support? In many ways support means people. But not just any people. These are people with very particular qualities, who:
- Listen to your feelings
- Accept and respect you
- Are reliable
- Are trustworthy
- Keep your confidences
- Believe you that you have been abused
- Don't 'play down' what happened to you
- Never blame you for what happened
- Never side with the person who abused you
Basically, you need a Support Team to help you on the life raft. They may be found in your immediate social circle, (partner/family/friends), from professional helpers, (therapists / counsellors / other professionals / voluntary organisations), or from other Survivors. Members of your Support Team don't have to be highly qualified. Nor do they always do 'professional' things.
For instance a supportive person might:
- make you a meal
- come round for a cup of tea
- tell you they care about you
- allow you to 'let off steam' by crying or shouting.
It's worth going through the people you are involved with, whether personally or professionally, and deciding whether you think they have the qualities mentioned above. If they don't then they may not be the most supportive people to have around if you're going through a crisis.
In choosing your Support Team here are some issues to consider:
If you're in a serious relationship you may need to weigh up how supportive your partner is.
Clearly an understanding partner could provide vital support in a crisis. Does she or he have the qualities mentioned above?
Have you told them about the abuse and what you're going through? Did they react with understanding and support? If you haven't told them yet how do you think they would react if you did? How have they reacted when you've shared personal things in the past?
If you've told your partner already and they are supportive you could consider the following options:
- Tell them you're in a crisis and need their support.
- Ask them for what you need. Remember that they will have their own needs too and will probably not be available 24 hours a day. Try to arrange with them a level of support they think they'll be able to give. Hopefully, you'll be getting support elsewhere as well.
- Be clear with them about anything you're not prepared to negotiate. If sex is out of the question for you at the moment tell them that. If there are some places you can't go, or things you can't do - because it's too painful - let them know.
If you haven't told your partner yet but you think they have the qualities to make a good supporter -
- Seriously consider telling them.
- Ask them for some practical support
If you've told your partner and they are not supportive ; or, if you do not think they have the qualities that would make a good supporter, you have some difficult decisions to make. Some options are:
- You could end the relationship. It's very hard to recover if people around you are not treating you with respect. The extra stress of a 'bad' relationship may not be what you need, particularly if you're going through a crisis.
- Ending it may not be acceptable to you. You may not want the stress of a break up on top of everything else. You could try to put some space between your partner and you. This will at least reduce the amount of times you're belittled or undermined, and give you time to think through what you want to do next. Use the space to build and get support from other aspects of your support system.
There may be times when your partner is not only not supportive but
engages in the following behaviours:
- Physically hurts or assaults you.
- Does sexual things to you that you don't want.
- Verbally abuses you.
If this is the case then please try to get away from this relationship. It will be like having someone on your life raft whose trying to push you in the river. No-one deserves to be abused either as a child or an adult. Men are not usually seen as being on the receiving end of abusive relationships. There are rarely safe refuges provided for them. Society expects men to just, 'grin and bear it.' But if these things are happening to you then it's not safe and you'll find it difficult to recover. Leaving relationships is not easy even 'bad' ones. Here's some ideas that might help:
- Start from the position that you deserve to have healthy, supportive people around you.
- Get some space between yourself and your partner. Go away for a while. Stay with a friend. Use the time to talk through your problem with a member of your Support Team. Try to come up with a plan that will get you to safety.
- If your in danger of being physically harmed, (assaulted or sexually abused again) get out of the situation.
- If you don't live together, get a friend over to stay
go and stay with a friend
consult the Police, tell them what danger your in, ask them what they can do about it. (See telephone numbers in 'Resources for Recovery' section.
- Consult a solicitor about your legal rights and how to take out an injunction. This is a complex area as the law is chiefly concerned with the violence of men against women.
If you do live together consider all the above, and in addition,
=> consult a solicitor about any legal issues regarding the property. (See telephone numbers in 'Resources for Recovery' section)
=> if you haven't got somewhere to stay consider seeking priority rehousing from the local authority. This may seem drastic, but it's sometimes needed in order to find a way to safety. You need to consult a solicitor and Sheffield's Housing Aid centre for more advice. (See 'Resources for Recovery.')
Remember that you can never rely on the hope that your partner will change if he/she is abusive. They may promise to. But your safety can only be assured by actions you take yourself. You can take advice and consult with those you trust. Being safe is necessary if you're to get through the crisis, and move towards recovery. Abuse has no place on the life raft for recovery.
If you're in an abusive relationship, but it just feels impossible to get out then :
- Try not to constantly criticise yourself, or think of yourself as less than a man,' or to blame for what's happening.
- Stay in touch with members of your Support Team.
- Take whatever steps you feel you can towards building your life raft. Spend more time with trustworthy people. Consider making a plan to get out of the situation. Be gentle with yourself and take good care of yourself physically. Every step you can make takes you further towards getting safe, building an effective life raft, and towards recovery.
- Remember that you are not to blame for your abuse. As a boy, your abuser was to blame - now it is the person who is assaulting or abusing you. The only difference is that, as an adult you now have more resources and power, and you can begin to take steps, however small, towards safety and recovery.