The holiday season has arrived and adult survivors of child sexual abuse will once again be navigating festivities where their perpetrator may have a seat at the table.
It is common for survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence to skip family reunions, birthday parties, funerals, weddings, and holiday dinners to avoid having to share these experiences with the person who sexually abused them, while other family members act like nothing ever happened. If they choose to speak up and set appropriate boundaries, they are often ignored, victim blamed, and shamed. Survivors are asked to offer forgiveness and trust without ever being offered a process for accountability and justice.
They won’t be alone. The holidays are incredibly difficult for trans people, people of color, people with disabilities – people on the margins. That’s why it is critical to have a concrete plan of action to safeguard the vulnerable people in your life.
Here are some steps you can take to be a good ally to the survivors of child sexual abuse and other forms of oppression this holiday season:
Review your guest list and reflect on who will be around your table. A quick review will likely reveal that you already know who is most likely to do harm and to whom. Spend some time talking with the survivors or vulnerable people you’ve invited to discuss what you can do to support them and then do those things.
In some cases, you may have to rescind a few invitations. If you know that there is a survivor of child sexual abuse who will be triggered by a guest’s presence or behavior, choose the survivor. Always. They are the ones who get to determine when and if it will ever be appropriate for them to have their perpetrator at the same table with them. They get to choose the boundaries and your job will be to support them.
If you know that a guest will not respect the pronouns or gender identity of your queer or trans loved ones, let them know that they are welcome to eat at a different table this holiday season. They can spend the next year doing their own work to educate themselves so that they won’t have to miss the next shindig.
It is your job, as the host, to set clear expectations about how people are to be treated. This is your opportunity to flex your ally muscles. You can send out educational resources and be a resource for folks who have questions about anything before they do or say something harmful.
You’re not done yet. Once everyone has arrived and the party has begun, it is now your job and the job of other allies in attendance to intervene if any of your guests behave in a manner that upholds rape culture or any other system of oppression including but not limited to: white supremacy, rape culture, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, or xenophobia. We all have a lot of learning to do and it’s important to foster an environment where we can all learn how to treat each other with dignity and respect.
This year, make sure that the people who need safe, loving community the most are sitting at your table.