Sexual assault or abuse is never the victim’s fault. With proper support from family and friends, survivors can begin to heal and move forward from what happened.
By Daniela Santiago
Bilingual Victim Advocate
Sexual Assault Center
It is already difficult for a survivor of sexual assault to speak up and disclose what has happened to him or her. It is important to know that every survivor has the right to be supported physically, mentally and emotionally, and in any other manner that they may need, during and after a traumatic experience.
Below are 5 ways to show support to a survivor:
LISTEN. Let the survivor speak, do not rush them to conclusions or rush to provide them solutions. It is ok if there are moments of silence during the conversation. Survivors need time to process their thoughts and process what happened to them. Offer them emotional comfort and allow them to express their feelings.
BELIEVE. People rarely lie or exaggerate about abuse. Believe what the survivor is telling you. As it is, it already took a lot of courage for them to trust and talk to you about a sensitive part of their life.
REASSURE. Remind the survivor that what happened is NOT their fault. The perpetrator is the only person to blame. It does not matter what a victim wears, says, or does – no one ever deserves to be abused or harassed. Let them know that you will respect their privacy by keeping confidential what they tell you. If you do need to inform someone, be open with the victim about who you are going to be talking to, and what you are going to tell that individual(s).
ESTABLISH SAFETY. Help the survivor identify ways to re-establish his or her sense of physical and emotional safety. Ask what would make him/her feel safe and how you can help to accomplish this. Help connect the survivor to a national or local sexual assault hotline for resources and advocacy. If needed, help the survivor create a plan of what to do if he/she is in immediate danger.
ENCOURAGE. Encourage the survivor to seek medical attention when needed, report the assault, and/ or contact local sexual assault resources. Encourage the survivor to seek activities to help them recover and gain control of their life again. Remember to support the survivor’s decisions, as they are the expert in their life.
Sexual assault, abuse and harassment touches many lives. We know that it happens to children, adolescents, and adults. No matter what your situation is, the Sexual Assault Center is here to help. We provide free, confidential support to survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones. These services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to survivors in Brown, Door, Oconto and Marinette Counties. For more information about our services and how to contact us, please visit our webpage.