The Power of Safe Space: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
When I was 19 years old, my friend John confided in me that he had been sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend from age 9 to 13. I don’t remember how the conversation started but I know how in sharing his story, John had allowed me into a private area of his life.
Even while sharing the details of his experience, John remained calm and positive. His words weren’t marked with resentment or anger. I remember being in awe of his resilience, compassion and strength. I remember that my teen brain couldn’t comprehend how he was capable of forgiveness.
When I asked him why he had shared this with me, he told me that he trusted me. The truth was that he felt safe with me. At that time, I didn’t feel worthy of his trust but I knew that I could help him to feel safe. It was something that I took for granted in my everyday life, but for John it was part of his healing how process and his journey in life.
Maybe because he told me that was “doing fine” or maybe because I was young, I never thought to ask John how he was really feeling. I assumed that because he was speaking and behaving with so much control, that he was fine. Looking back, I made a lot of assumptions about what John needed from me.
I thought that if I just listened and gave him a safe space to share, that it was enough. I didn’t think to encourage John to seek help. I didn’t think to ask him more questions. I was afraid that John was fragile and by talking too much I would break him, so I just listened.
Now that I’m an adult and a mom of two boys, I realize how sacred that day was for both of us. I realize that the trust and safety John felt was part of his healing. I realize what John needed most was for me to listen.
Trust and safety are powerful gifts to give a man on a healing journey. In creating a safe space, we give them support and hope. Read more on the Joyful Heart Foundation
By Marie Roker Jones
Marie Roker-Jones, BA, Fordham University, Certified Breakthrough Parenting® Instructor and Intrinsic Coach® in Health and Wellness is the founder of Raising Great Men™, real talk about raising boys to become men of character, and What Kind of Man Do You Want to Be™, an initiative for boys and young men to join in the dialogue about the social pressures of masculinity and examine definitions of ‘real manhood’. Marie is married and has two sons.
The name in this piece has been changed to protect privacy.