The Worst Thing You Can Say to a Survivor

I used to think the worst thing a person could say to a survivor is a minimizing statement such as “You’re overreacting.” Now I know that I was wrong. The worst thing a person can say to a survivor is “I don’t care.”

My parents are divorced and there was some sort of disagreement. The details aren’t important. My mom started going on a rant to me about how my dad conveniently “forgets” many things (which is one of his favorite gaslighting techniques). It’s a 100% valid thing to be upset about, but this is none of my business. She’s been trying to stop involving me in their disputes, but here she is doing it again. It’s a tough situation for her because I’m one of the people she confides in most… but I’m also her daughter.

Anyway, I remind her that she’s putting me in the middle and she continues her rant anyway. She also accuses dad of putting me in the middle. She’s not listening to me and I find myself getting upset. Am I getting triggered by her raised voice? So I nicely tell her she needs to change her tone because it’s triggering me.

“I don’t care,” she responds.

I was shocked. I say something along the lines of “Woa! In that case, I’m done,” and walk out of the room. So what does she do? Continues her rant, of course.
“I need you to stop. You’re triggering me.”
“I don’t care.”
“How dare you!” I yell. “That is extremely disrespectful.”
She continues her rant.
“Stop,” I yell. No reaction.
“STOP!” This time I screamed. Well… it worked.

I went to the kitchen, covered my face with my hands, and rested my forehead against the wall. I was so overwhelmed!
1) I was feeling a little triggered
2) I just yelled at my own mom and
3) I haven’t raised my voice like that in years. I’d forgotten how scary it sounds. Frankly, it triggered me all over again.

I threw my lunch together and tried to calm down as I hastily got ready for bed. My mind was spinning. We had such a nice moment earlier today. We both had drinks and I took the opportunity to let her know that alcohol makes me more susceptible to triggers. It felt wonderful to utilize my support system for once. But now… she’s lost 100% of my trust in her regarding PTSD symptoms and sexual assault. It will take a long time to regain that. Her words cut like a knife.

Click here for an update. It turns out this was an misunderstanding.

Related content:
What Not to Do When Your Friend is Triggered
Telling My Mom that I’m a Survivor
Imperfectly Supporting a Survivor (also about my mom)
How to Help a Loved One Cope with Triggers

Thank you for reading this post. You can find my full backstory here.

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