Experiencing sexual violence or abuse is difficult enough in itself, but the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can accompany this often make it even worse. There are many reasons why we might become isolated, whether it’s feelings of shame, fear of being with other people or social anxiety, and often after periods of isolation the prospect of mixing with others can feel incredibly daunting.
The good news it that there are lots of ways that we can dip our toes back into the proverbial water, and whilst SurvivorsUK offers groups for male survivors, there are other places where you can meet new people away from your experience of sexual violence.
Team sports are a great way to connect with other people, but other types of exercise that are often considered more solitary can be a less competitive way to meet other people too. Parkrun arrange running groups for all abilities across the UK, and Ramblers arrange group walks across the country, ranging from urban strolls to hikes out in the wild. And whilst classes from Body Pump to Yoga don’t often encourage conversation, just experiencing the energy of others whilst we exercise can make us feel more connected.
I’m not just talking drawing and painting here – there are loads of other arts-based activities that might float your boat. The choir scene is exploding across the country, and male singers are particularly sought after. Amateur dramatics groups and are another way you can meet people whilst flexing those performance muscles, as are guitar and other musical instrument groups. And, whilst some groups might ask you to audition – gulp! – others won’t…
Volunteering is a great way to boost your self-esteem, as well as being a way to meet not only other volunteers but also people benefitting from your time, whether it be children, elderly people or anyone in-between – find opportunities near you at Do It. It can also be an way to do something about issues that mean a lot to you and even get some gentle exercise at the same time – I’m a big fan of The Conservation Volunteer’s Green Gyms for this very reason. If you feel passionate about a particular cause, some charities and political parties have local groups where you can meet likeminded people to campaign and raise funds for causes that mean a lot to you.
Back to school
… or college at least! There are thousands of adult evening courses in everything from cooking to creative writing, lasting from a few weeks to a year or two. Struggling for inspiration? Think about what might be useful for you, whether it’s basic plumbing or learning French for your next holiday, or peruse your local college’s website or Floodlight. Not convinced? Just think how many people make lifelong friends – and even meet their partners – at school or college…
Don’t forget the wonder of Meetup where you can find groups on all the above and more. Just pop in your postcode and see what is out there waiting for you!
Michelle, Counsellor, SurvivorsUK