MENTORSHIP FOR SURVIVORS (SESSION H)
Isolation and rejection are the biggest fears that hold many people trapped in cycles of abuse. Experiencing support from others is particularly important to help ameliorate the negative effects of abuse patterns. Many studies have shown the benefits of mentoring in academic and business contexts. I would like to present the benefits of mentoring relationships for survivors of family violence and abuse. Based on my speaking, research and countless conversations with shelters, survivors and victims from all different backgrounds across Canada, I have seen an overwhelming need of stronger post-crisis support for abuse survivors. Once a woman decides to leave an abusive situation, she finds crisis support from the police, shelters, crisis helplines and victim services. Most shelters would provide accommodation to a survivor for up to a period of 3 months. Departing the shelter to embark on a new life is an intimidating, overwhelming and uncertain process at the best of times. Most survivors lack human support and friendship from their families and communities as these connections often dissolve with the ending marriage/relationship. This is especially true in immigrant communities where the level of shame and stigma associated with divorce is much higher. Often, this process of starting a new life is described as walking in a dark tunnel with little to no direction. The fear of isolation and marginalization, combined with the intimidating process of building a new life, is often so overwhelming that many women go back to their abusers or fall into similar abusive relationship patterns. This is akin to a released prisoner reoffending to go back to their safe space, i.e. jail, due to lack of acceptance and comfort in their new-found “freedom”. The same analogy can be extended to survivors of all genders and ages who have witnessed or experienced family violence. Research overwhelmingly indicates that the most essential factor in the healing and success of a survivor is human connection. Even one person who can hold their hand and tell them they’re not alone, provide guidance and support, connect with suitable resources and offer the priceless gift of connection, can help a survivor through this journey of transformation. Mentors provide coaching, sponsorship, and connection in a new world. Through the faith mentors instill in them, survivors learn to have faith in themselves. Mentoring supports a wide variety of aspects of development and healing in survivors of abuse, such as reducing isolation and fears of failure, and validating the process of growth out of pain and towards healing and success. Planned mentoring may be particularly important for abuse survivors, as the deliberate structure of the relationship may be less likely to be affected by the emotional complications arising from histories of abuse. In my presentation, I will discuss these and other benefits, methodologies, and implications of community and peer mentorship for abuse survivors, through relaying my own journey as well as stories I’ve encountered, research-based evidence, and the insights I’ve developed over the years.