The Importance of Validation for Abuse Survivors

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The need for validation is an utterly human one. We both desire and deserve to be heard — and this goes doubly so for those of us on the margins.

Five years ago, I was the victim of a sexual assault in an inpatient psychiatric setting. My complaints to both the hospital and the legal system were dismissed and downplayed due to my status as a person with mental illness. I was made to feel as though I was making a melodramatic fuss over what they saw as a very minor incident.

This invalidation felt almost as horrible as if my story had been completely disbelieved. To be told “Yes, we know this happened, but just try to get on with your life and forget about it” was absolutely crushing, as was the written statement from the hospital’s lawyer to mine that “we both know the only reason your client is pursuing litigation is because of her psychiatric diagnosis” (to roughly paraphrase).

Thankfully I had (and still have) an amazing psychiatrist and attorney who validated my narrative every step of the way. I eventually settled out of court with the hospital, which was forced to make major changes to the way it runs its inpatient units.

I feel an enormous sense of pride at having made a real difference on that front, but I’m still angry that the criminal justice system never chose to prosecute my attacker, even in the face of copious documentation and evidence. That feels like the ultimate invalidation of my need for justice and safety, and is a wounding I carry with me to this day.

I know that my wounds are not unique to me alone, however, and I am committed to validating the experiences of women like me. If you are struggling, if you feel dismissed and broken down, remember: There is another in your tribe who will bear witness to your pain. I see you. I hear you. I believe you.

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4 thoughts on “The Importance of Validation for Abuse Survivors

  1. Such an important post. It always shocks me when people react as if getting over abuse is a choice that can be made like picking an ice cream flavor. As if by just “trying harder” we could somehow heal. I’m sorry this happened to you, and I’m grateful for your voice and your strength in fighting so that others would not have the same experience. @abetterjulie from http://www.persephoneknits.blogspot.com

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