RAD Care for working with survivors

By Smitty Buckler of the RAD Care Collective

(please give credit if you use)

If you love, live with or work with survivors remember vulnerability and TACT. By sharing that they are a trauma survivor the person in your live has shared something not only very personal but also very vulnerable. There is a lot of shame attached to survivors, victim blaming and gas lighting being perpetuated by not only abusers but often also by those most close to them. It is commonly thought that the survivor must have done something bad to warrant the way they have or are being treated. It quickly becomes one person’s word against another. Often abusers are very charismatic and well liked by others. This leads to further abuse through isolation. Microaggressions are perceived as illegitimate by others. ‘So he stepped on your toe, what is the big deal.’ If he is an elephant and you are a mouse and he steps on your toes constantly it is hard to get others to understand especially if they are also elephants. Recognize that you are asking something vulnerable of someone when asking about (their) trauma. In order to connect with them usually requires some vulnerability on your part. Expecting someone to give this of themselves if you are not going to give in return creates an unsafe environment.


Timing is important in two ways. One the individual needs to have autonomy about when situations occur so they can control their triggers and activation. Also, timing is important because often survivors process at different speeds. This can often be slower or delayed (aka they need time away from the situation). It is easy to bowl over someone in fast paced conversations which can leave the survivor feeling spoken over and disempowered. The survivor should have autonomy about how the conversation is framed to make space for their neurodiversity.


This is on an individual and organizational level. When a person says something is coming from a place of privilege, entitlement or is an ism, it is imperative that person is heard in addition to individuals and organizations own up and are accountable. It is also important when speaking with survivors that individuals are accountable to the power, privilege and entitlement they have in a situation. These issues should be part of the transparency process as well. Naming privilege is a way to work towards being accountable for how those power dynamics play out.


Consent first and foremost requires autonomy and empowerment. An individual should be given all the transparent information so they can make an autonomous decision that is based in consent not coercion. When a person is not given all the information about a situation then it becomes coercion. Since survivors have a history of being manipulated into situations outside of their consent it is most important that the individual knows what they are consenting to. Autonomy means “freedom from external control or influence; independence.” This means an individual should not be making decisions based in fear, threats nor any other kind of coercion.


This is the what, who, how, why and sometimes where.  This information can not be manipulated nor twisted to frame a story in any certain way. All facts about a given situation should be transparent to everyone. Often framing, lies and manipulation have been used in the past to abuse a survivor so it is imperative that whether or not it seems important that all information is included and available to all parties and to outside sources as well. Having outside allyship stops a group of individuals from ganging up on one individual. Pecking orders are gross. Saving face for abusers hurts the survivors of that abuse. It also takes away their autonomy for appropriate accountability. These dynamics are crazy making and victim blaming. This can also detain the healing process. Survivors are blamed for everything. The healing process entails being able to internalize that one did not cause a situation. Survivors also feel powerless to control their situations, unable to escape abuse. This can lead to suicidality as a better option than a life of abuse. When an abuser is privileged over a survivor’s need for accountability this is a furthering of the abuse that individual experienced because the survivor experiences/ internalizes the situation as their fault. The survivor deserves accountability and transparency.