Why people who have experienced rape or sexual abuse are experts on courage

As a cartooning psychologist I talk about courage at conferences and workshops. It’s my job to take a complex issue like ‘what does it mean to be courageous?’ and simplify it using my cartoons. Courage is an important aspect of being human – so it’s important that we can all understand it.

My talks often focus on the workplace – how can we help people fulfil their potential by learning to be more courageous? Being courageous at work is a good idea – it takes courage to innovate, to share your ideas, to break new ground, to test novel solutions to old problems, to lead, to speak up when you feel your values are being compromised, to stand out from the crowd, to give honest feedback, and to keep going despite setbacks and failure. In work, and in life, courage is key to pushing our boundaries and fulfilling our potential.

It’s key to our growth.

But… the tricky thing about courage is that it requires vulnerability. Being courageous is stepping outside of our comfort zones (the space where we feel safe, competent, and in control) and stepping in to our ‘discomfort zones’ (the place that is unknown, unsafe, and unpredictable). It’s here that we push the boundaries of our knowledge, skill, experience… we grow.

People who have been raped or sexual abused are experts on courage because they have experienced something that makes them feel very vulnerable. They face the challenge of living in their ‘discomfort zone’ on a regular basis. Which means they are experts at it.

Survivors of abuse have taught me a great deal about living with vulnerability. Their brave pursuit of their own potential, despite the vulnerability that they experience, is a fantastic lesson to us all.

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