Letters & Opinion

Creating a Calm Space

Image of Souyenne Dathorne
PROSAF — Surviving Sexual Abuse In The Caribbean By Souyenne Hackshaw

IN this week’s article, I would like to focus on creating calm moments when the world around us becomes scary and lonely. Last week’s article discussed the aspects of sexual violence that may be confusing to the wider population. I generally believe that it has become easier for the wider population to ignore what happens when sexual violence occurs. So last week’s article was meant to give you the information that would effectively erase the excuse of not knowing. There’s no longer be any confusion or misunderstanding as to what sexual violence constitutes; an act that is sexual in nature performed against the will of an individual/individuals, an act that was forced, coerced or manipulated into being. A sexual act that was carried out against the will of one or more persons. Being intoxicated for example, is not the victim’s fault. I think we would all agree that if I am incapable of responding that anything that happens to my body during that time frame would constitute an act committed against my will also known as rape, sexual assault, or an act of sexual violence. We can also agree that although we like to blame clothing for sexual violence that time and again it has been shown that sexual violence doesn’t discriminate based on clothing, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, socio economic status, etc. We can also agree that there is not a misunderstanding where sexual violence is concerned. If someone forced themselves on me, I don’t see how I could have misunderstood their intentions or actions. So, let’s stop making excuses for sexual violence. Let’s acknowledge the issue for what it is – an act of sexual violence committed against another human being. Let’s acknowledge that there are men and women out there that we know who are capable of committing these crimes. Let’s stop expecting the victim/survivor to stop the rape from occurring by basically not living. We expect survivors of sexual violence to anticipate who is going to rape them and then fight off the individual accordingly. As we continue on with the article I would like to remind you should you feel triggered, begin to have flashbacks, or begin to feel anxious, please stop, put the article down, take a moment to remind yourself of where you are, remind yourself that you are safe right now in this moment. Learn to listen to your body, learn to give it what it needs.

I know there are a lot of scary happenings in the world right now. I know that what is happening is forcing many of you to remind indoors, to remain closer to individuals who want to be away from. I understand that being told to remain indoors may feel claustrophobic. I understand that not being able to be in control of your movements may be further triggering. This is not an ideal situation but unfortunately the precautions are in place to help keep us safe. With that being said, I would like to explore what you can do to help you create a safe space for yourself. It is important for your mental health that you create a calm space outside all that is happening. Those of you who like to read, use the time to get lost in someone else’s world, to live out their fantasies. Books help us lose and find ourselves; they create a space where we can see bits of ourselves in the characters. So, escape the reality we are currently stuck in by getting lost in a book. If you like music, create a couple playlists to help you depending on the mood that you are in. Music helps us relax; it helps us lose ourselves to the sound in the moment. Create a list for when you need to be moving, to help you get into the zone for a workout, a house cleaning or just to have a dance party with yourself. Create a playlist for bedtime, something soothing so you don’t fall asleep listening to the news. The news is informative, but it can also create more panic and fear. Create a playlist to soothe and calm you should your anxiety start to increase. Create a playlist to pick yourself up; something uplifting (this can be any kind of music that gives you a boost). Find an exercise routine that you enjoy. I know we are to keep clear of others so try to find something that you can do on your own at home. Work on breathing exercises which can keep anxiety levels down. Should you become anxious, do a countdown, inhale and exhale deeply, and remind yourself of where you are and that right now you are safe. This will help reduce the anxiety and help you control your reactions. Work on doing some of the things that you did in your past that brought you joy. Colour with the kids, play games with them, if you don’t have kids don’t let that stop you from colouring if that’s what brings you joy. Take the time to sit with your surroundings and reflect. Take the time to think of what you want to change, what you want to reset, and what you want to do more of.

I know what is happening in the world right is scary. I know the uncertainty has us even more afraid, but I also know that it is important that you work on protecting your mental health and on creating whatever safe space or ‘you-time’ that you can for yourself. You are your top priority right now. If you fall apart you will be of no use to anyone else. The comment is not to sound insensitive or selfish but to help you realize that you can only do so much before your lack of self-care renders you incapable. What is important is a balance. With the virus dominating the news and our thoughts, we need to find time to focus on things that will help pull us away from the fear and scary thoughts – things that will help create calm pockets of time filled with things that bring you joy.

I also know that for many of you, the reality is that you may be stuck at home with the individual who is hurting you. I know this means your avenues for help and relief are limited. I understand this can make the present situation even scarier. Sadly, the options available are limited, but if you need to talk, we are here don’t hesitate to call us. With the world as it currently is, try to find one calm moment a day and work to increase it. Try to find things that will help take you out of the scary things going through your head. Know that even though you feel alone, you are not. The fear is collective, the need to find calm and tiny pockets of joy is collective. Let’s start talking and sharing with each other virtually about what we do to stay calm. Let’s work on being the support each other needs. No one is immune from what is happening right now, choose you words wisely, watch your actions carefully and when you offend don’t be too stubborn to say “sorry”. The world is living through a collective trauma and we will all need time to heal from this trauma. Let’s work on being human beings who don’t judge, who don’t blame, who help, listen, and empathize. Let’s work on not losing ourselves in the fear. Remain vigilant. Listen to the experts on ways to prevent being infected. Practice social distancing but don’t isolate yourself from others. Create your virtual support space. Again, PROSAF is here to listen and to help. Please reach out to us on www.prosaf.org. Our PROSAF team is here for you should you need to vent, talk, cry, laugh or just need some company!

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