“Show mercy where you can.” ~ John F. Kelly
You might not recognize that name. Not to be confused with another JFK, my maternal grandfather said this to me when I was very young. I still haven’t been able to find it written anywhere or attributed to anyone else – I think the great thing about this little saying is that it encapsulates many truths in a simple sentence. We must show mercy, compassion and love in as many places as we can.
At the Women’s and Children’s Alliance we do our best to show mercy where we can. We try to meet clients where they’re at. What does this mean? When we support survivors of trauma and abuse we must extend our hands and invite survivors to grab onto as many or as few as they wish.
Unfortunately, violence is a prevalent occurrence. Sexual Assault Awareness Month reminds us that one in five women and one in 71 men experience rape in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Even more disheartening – one in four girls and one in six boys experience sexual abuse before they turn 18.
Everyone knows someone – even if you think you don’t – it’s likely you know many people. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I ask you to extend your hands. It’s likely that survivors surround you.
How can you extend your hands to survivors?
- When a story about sexual assault makes headlines – believe survivors.
- Practice consent in all your actions. Ask before you introduce a potentially upsetting conversation with others, ask before you invade someone’s personal bubble.
- If a loved one discloses to you, offer your support. Don’t question them or push them to make choices they aren’t ready to make.
- Educate friends and family about victim blaming and rape culture.
Meeting survivors where they’re at means not pressuring them to report their assault and respecting that decision. The majority of rape victims, 63 percent, do not report their assault, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Meeting survivors where they’re at means understanding that every situation looks different – eight out of 10 survivors know their perpetrator, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Meeting people where they’re at extends to all our interactions. This too means meeting our friends and families where they are at. Many violent behaviors have been normalized in our culture. It’s by teaching compassionately that we can achieve an understanding.
I’d like to make an addendum to my grandfather’s saying. Show mercy where you can, especially where you see mercy, compassion and love lacking.
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