Universally, victims share a truth: if you have not experienced their adversity, you don’t have accurate basis for empathy. You can only be expert at gathering and reporting views, not interpreting them. This fact is true whether you are doctor, policeman, reporter, or wizened grandmother. To step beyond reporting what victims say is to enter the world of conjecture and opinion which may serve the victim poorly.
What is the impact of struggles with cancer and its medical remediations? How do stroke patients feel about their loss and the push toward rehabilitation? Can you feel what painful childbirth leaves in its wake, or sense the searing sting that rape imprints? Victims agree you cannot understand fully from outside the experience singular to them.
Consider by analogy what you know of being black or white, immigrant or native, poor or rich, old or young, male or female. There is always room to move toward empathy. It calls for dialogue between those who truly know and those who don’t. It calls for non-judgmental listening, truthful recounting, and separating fact from opinion. It takes time and patience to do unto your neighbor properly while you learn empathy.
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