...FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS
It's never easy to know how to react when someone tells you they have been hurt. Good friends can make all the difference to a survivor and her recovery. For those who care about someone who has survived rape/abuse/sexual assault the following may be useful.
- Believe Her - if someone has chosen to open up to you then please know that that is not a decision that has been taken lightly. It takes a lot for a survivor to share their experiences and it means that they are putting their trust in you. Not being believed is one of the biggest fears survivors have and a positive reaction from someone can aid a survivors recovery
- .Don't Blame Her - Survivors suffer from terrible guilt over something that was not their fault. Don't add to it by asking them why they didn't do things differently - they did they best they could to survive at the time - tell them it wasn't their fault.
- Listen - Let her know that it is ok to talk about it, talking openly will help remove the sense of secrecy and shame that survivors often feel
- Be There - After someone has opened up to you about what has happened to them they may feel exposed and vulnerable. Reassure them that telling you was ok and that you are there for them if they need to talk again
- .Give Her Time - The time taken to recover from rape/abuse or sexual assault varies from person to person - it may be months but it is more likely to be years. Don't tell them they should be over it by now - there is no time limit on recovery and it is not a process that can be hurried
- Ask About Physical Contact - some survivors want to be held and comforted and others do not - if you are unsure then check before you touch
Your presence as a supportive friend will be very important, but you do not have to get overwhelmed. It is OK to suggest that your friend also gets help from a Dr or trained therapist - you are not a professional and no one expects you to know everything. You may also wish to get support for yourself if you are find you are becoming overwhelmed by your friends pain or if you find that issues in your own life are being triggered.
Here are a few resources: