A solid ground is something every survivor needs. ‘Safe Space’, as the term indicates, is a shelter. A safe space is not a place, but a source that provides stability, emotional and physical security, and respect for individuals who belong to marginalized groups. They aim to change you into a survivor, an individual who will not feel shame while expressing themselves.
A safe space will never coddle you. It will give you an opportunity to be as raw as possible so that you are able to let your guard down without any fear of harm or judgement. Through the journey of healing from trauma, feelings of shock, denial or disbelief, lack of clarity, loss of ability to focus, frequently occurring mood swings, constant irritability, blaming oneself and living in a constant state of guilt, shying away from company, a constant sense of hopelessness, lack of interest and motivation, numbness, and physical symptoms of trauma such as insomnia, frequently occurring nightmares, constant fatigue, being alarmed easily, abnormally fast paced heartbeat, frequent aches and pains, and muscle tension are all extremely common (Robinson et al., 2020). A safe space for survivors helps you acknowledge these feelings and process them.
Traumatic events such as physical and psychological violence, sexual abuse, genital mutilation, femicide, human trafficking, slavery, marital rape, domestic violence and many others are faced every day, around the world by millions of children and women2. In the developing world, women have limited space to meet, and public spaces are often inhabited largely by men3. In such societies, to ensure the safety of women and children, safe spaces carry much regard. Thus, anywhere where the ‘victim’ is marginalized, where they feel shame talking about their trauma, where they fear judgment and harm for their expressions, safe spaces prove to be centers of listening and counseling for healing from trauma.
For women and children in Pakistan, considering how hard it is to go out in public spaces and with curfews, online safe spaces have come to the front. With the pandemic ongoing, the entire world has shifted online, making such spaces easily accessible for anyone around the world. In some close communities, where even seeking professional help is considered ‘unlawful’ and the victim is to be blamed, online safe spaces such as CHADAR help survivors find what they need.
Safe spaces are like support groups, individuals are empowered to express themselves and feel included. Vulnerability and free expression are promoted, so that when they are outside of these spaces they are able to build resilience and courage, being the most authentic version of themselves. Safe spaces can provide a break from judgment, unsolicited opinions, and having to explain yourself4. An individual learns to acknowledge their own value, their own opinions, and the fact that their trauma is not their fault or doing. This acknowledgment transforms them into strong, resilient survivors. These survivors muster the courage to share their story with the world, to let the victims know they are not alone, to let them know there are many like them, and to let their abuser know that their trauma, does not define who they are.
A safe space is not therapy and it is not an echo chamber. It is a way for survivors to move on through their journey of healing with the strength they gain from the space and its community.
1. Robinson Lawrence, Smith Melinda, A.M and Segal Jeanne, “Emotional and Psychological Trauma”, Help Guide, February 2020, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm.
2. MARIACHIARA DI CESARE* Women, marginalization, and vulnerability: introduction
3. Population Council, Creating “safe spaces” for adolescent girls, 2011, http://www.popcouncil.org/uploads/pdfs/TABriefs/39_SafeSpaces.pdf