The Clocks’ Arms: Companionship, Time, and Loving a Survivor of Sexual Violence

Many survivors do not have the luxury of using the phrase, “time flies” because oftentimes survivors find each day is slower than the last.  Each hour, sometimes minute, seems to pass at an excruciatingly tedious pace.  Pain simply does not make time go faster.  Trauma puts survivors in worlds where the clocks’ hands do funny things.  Clocks’ arms tend to be heavy and lazy, taking minutes to move one minute and hours to move one hour.  Sometimes it even appears that the clocks’ arms have stopped moving altogether.  Survivors live in timeless worlds because the focus is more on getting through the nightmares at night and triggered memories during the day.

Friends and families of survivors have often asked me how to be a better friend, sister, mother, father, confidant, partner, person to a survivor.  Allies want concrete strategies to help their loved ones “get through this time” and want to boost their spirits in any way possible.

My advice for loving friends and families, for concerned activists and advocates, for anyone who finds themselves in a position to truly witness the healing of a survivor is to try and walk in their world of timelessness.  Healing has no clocks, no magic, no pills, no quick fix.  Look at the process of a deeply cut wound.  Even when the bleeding has stopped, a slight tap to the wound can prompt a gush of new blood.  Even as the days pass, it is raw, sensitive, and needs intense care and vigilance.  And isn’t it true that those deep wounds, the ones that we think will heal on their own and “in no time,” are the ones we end up looking at even weeks later and finding ourselves surprised that it’s still healing and not yet ready to be a scar?

Take that process and multiply it by a thousand.

There are some wounds that will surprise you with its need for timelessness.  Step into that world with a survivor.  Put away your expectations, your ready and practiced sayings and understand that violation, at this level, cannot be put back together according to your timeline or an expert’s approximation.

If you want to be a true companion, a true advocate, a true friend, the best thing to do is to put away your clock.  Sit.  Be flexible to what s/he needs.

Love without time restrictions.

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