6 part Series: Why is DV your Problem?
Supporter’s Gap: Using Two Tools to Narrow the Gap
How many of you know others who are in abuse? How many of you have had that feeling that your gut is pinging to help them because you based know their circumstances, however, you are still reserved? It’s like you want to follow the “Golden Rule” (do unto others as you would have others do to you) but feel that you don’t know how or have the skills? Those feelings are perfectly normal. I call this feeling “The Supporter’s Gap.” It is that gap of wanting to do something, but not having the skills or training to know what to do. Often you think to yourself: 1) I'm not a counselor, 2) I'm not trained to do anything! 3) I don't want to get involved. That is just too sticky.
You are right that it will feel awkward--that Supporter’s Gap. It might get a little sticky. This isn’t like you just walk up to someone with a printed list of addresses, phone numbers, and emails to shelters, to advocates, or tell them that their Employee Assistance Program can help them and walk away. No. Talking to and connecting with someone who is in abuse requires two tools from the Supporter’s Toolkit to happen: building trust and giving choices.
Tool number one: building trust with someone takes time and takes authenticity and love. Those qualities are easier with friendships and family members versus coworkers or strangers, but it can be done. The key to building trust with is authenticity and motive free: you can be kind, friendly, concerned, and nice. You can listen--with your full attention. You can read body language and notice others. You can help people to laugh and bring your light to them but helping them to know they are seen! That they are of value and of worth.
Victims of abuse are very leery of gestures of love and kindness because that is how their abusers lured them into the trap they are in. But if you are honest and with love the trust will be built.
Tool number two is to give the victim choices. Think about their life for a moment. They live with someone who 1) degrades them, 2) who robs them of their light, 3) who forces them to do things because of their threats or their actions towards them, 4) who will feed to them half-truths just to hook them on a hope for something in the future, just to take it away from them. Victims have no choices. They live in a world that is completely controlled by someone else in a very manipulative and degrading manner. Thus widening the gap.
If you feel compelled to help a victim, and by your actions unintentionally start to control them as well, the victim now has two people that they need to negotiate with and figure out a way to work around because their choices have been limited. How do you avoid this? You use your two tools! You extend the friendship and see what the victim will do with it. You are authentic with them, are kind, and are real. If victims trust you, then they will ask for help. When they ask for help give them the information they are seeking, but do it with love.
In my book, Pinpoints of Light: Escaping the Abyss of Abuse, I share a story when my coworker offered me a place to stay for a few weeks, she did it in trust and love (tools). She did it in wanting to help, but allowed me the option and the choices of when I could “take her up on her offer.” I was given choices. I felt valued. I felt intelligent again. I felt like I could actually make it because I had people who supported me, built trust with me, and gave me options. This narrowed the gap between us.
In short, it all boils down to using the right tools. The best tool is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do to you. That is the master tool we have been talking about the whole time. If we are thinking of others, thinking of their needs, thinking of how they are feeling, and are concerned with what is going on in their lives, then we are caring. If we are building trust with them through our actions and offering them true choices then we are really helping. With all those tools, we are doing we narrowing the Supporter’s Gap, and helping a victim become a victor!