Each year, we celebrate National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week in Canada to raise awareness of services and supports for persons harmed by crime and violence and to recognize the tireless efforts of front-line victim services staff, volunteers and advocates who offer support, information and practical assistance to survivors. In 2017, the theme for Victims Week is “Empowering Resilience”, which provides us with the opportunity to reflect on how we can better help victims discover and utilize their strengths and capacities in their healing journey.
Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. It is the ability to overcome challenges or to bounce back from adversity. They way people perceive and interpret adversity affects the way they feel and how they relate to the world around them. Resilient people have a positive view of themselves, their world. The good news is resilience can be learned through behaviours, thoughts and actions, it is not a trait. Resilience can be built in a number of ways by: 1) making social connections for support; 2) avoiding seeing crises as insurmountable problems; 3) accepting that change is a part of life; 4) moving towards goals; 5) taking decisive action; 6) looking for opportunities for self-discovery; 7) nurturing a positive view of oneself; 8) keeping things in perspective; 9) maintaining a hopeful outlook; 10) taking care of oneself.
But sometimes it can be challenging for victims and survivors to feel resilient given the traumatic experience they’ve had. Some may feel that they are being rushed to move forward with their lives or “get over it”. Others may feel they are being judged for not being resilient enough or for being too angry. We must recognize that each individual is on a unique healing path with very different timelines. We cannot rush anyone to recovery, healing or wellness, but we can be present to assist survivors to use their strengths to overcome the challenges presented by victimization. There are also great resources available that may be helpful. For example, the Victim Coordinating Committee (VICC) for Leeds and Grenville Counties just developed and released an empowerment toolkit, which provides helpful tips on how to maintain, improve, or encourage healthy well-being after experiencing trauma.
We must also be mindful of the diversity that exists within communities and across Indigenous cultures and nations. Decolonizing our practice is important to ensure that we have the skills to help survivors with wholistic wellness and connection to self, family, community, culture and nature/spiritual.