PROMISING PRACTICES: Naming Rights
Have you ever been called a name or form of address you were uncomfortable with? How did you feel? All victims deserve the tiny but critical respect of being called by the name they use. When a Christopher is called “Chris” by a victim service professional even though he never uses that nickname, it can feel disrespectful. The survivor is liable to wonder, “if they can’t even get my name right, how well will they listen to what else I share with them?”
Names are important. As one blogger put it, “Names are connections to family, to culture, to community, to the core of our selves.” They can be especially important to the survivor who has struggled on behalf of their name. That’s often true for transgender and non-binary victims as well as survivors who have changed their name to escape an abuser or honor a marriage. Victims who come from cultures different than the service provider can also pay close attention to how careful the provider is to learn how to pronounce their name right.
For transgender and non-binary survivors, pronouns – he, she, they, etc. – carry as much weight as do chosen names. That’s why an increasing number of victim service professionals are adding a pronoun line to their email signature block, requesting every person’s pronoun on intake forms, and introducing themselves by offering their pronoun as well as their name when first meeting a client. These small practices send huge signals to transgender and non-binary victims, telling them that the victim service professional knows how important it is to get their name and pronoun right. Getting it wrong can stop the conversation before it starts. Getting it right sets the stage for a more honest and fruitful discussion of a victim’s needs and ultimate healing.