· Believe Them!
· Give them control. Sexual assault victims need the chance to re-establish a sense of personal control over what happens in their lives. Problem solving efforts and strong recommendations from service providers, friends and University officials may be perceived as blaming and personal attack. In general, the victim needs to be heard, to be respected, to understand all of the options, and to move at her/his own pace through the process of recovery.
· Time is of the essence for the victims of sexual assault in several ways. Time is short in the sense that they are likely to be in crisis and in need of immediate support. Time is also short for securing evidence for possible prosecution and preventing possible pregnancy. At the same time, victims will need time and ongoing support to recover from the assault in a constructive manner.
· In addition to its effects on the victim, rape profoundly affects family members and other loved ones. Partners of victims may have a particularly difficult time coming to terms with what has happened. Yet, a partner is in a unique position to help a victim deal with the consequences of such a traumatic event, and thereby assist the loved one in making the transition from victim to survivor. Below are some helpful hints for becoming an ally to your loved one.
For Loved Ones of Sexual Assault / Sexual Violence
an act of violence
frightening, degrading and occurs without consent
neither invited nor enjoyed
is not the victim's fault
The victim needs:
to be believed
to be allowed to make decisions about what she/he does and does not want to do
assistance in seeking medical attention
assistance in reporting the incident to the poice - if she/he chooses to do so
§ Communicate acceptance and compassion
§ Listen: be available to discuss the experience when the survivor is ready
§ Provide physical comfort when needed
§ Discuss rape myths when the survivor is ready. These may play on her/his mind just as they do on yours
§ Play a supportive role. This helps her/him to regain a sense of control over her/his life
§ Assist your loved one in getting counseling if needed
§ Reassure her/him of your love and that, together, you will endure this crisis
§ Channel your anger in non-destructive ways such as, talking openly about your feelings or educating others about the recovery process
§ Take care of your own needs. Doing so helps your partner give permission to her/himself to do the same
§ Blame the victim. Doing so prolongs recovery and creates a distance in the relationship
§ Ask “why” questions which only serve to convey judgment and blame
§ Pressure her/him to recount the details of the event. She/he will do so if/when ready
§ “Take charge” of a loved one’s healing process. Doing so will likely undermine her/his sense of control
§ Trivialize the experience by joking about it
§ Tell the survivor to “get over it” or “just try to forget about it.”
§ Be consumed by your anger. This has several unintended consequences, none of which are helpful: Anger. . .
· Shifts the attention from the survivor’s needs to your needs
· Blocks communication
· Is easily misinterpreted as anger toward the survivor
Partners of loved ones who have been raped play a crucial role in the trauma recovery process. It is vital to provide a safe, accepting environment in which the survivor can release painful feelings.
By letting the survivor know that you trust in her/his ability to recover, you empower her/him to overcome the pain. As the healing process proceeds, it is recommended that you resume joint, pleasurable activities which brought you closer together in the past.
Be patient: Complete resolution may take months or years. Finally, for your own well-being, it is recommended that you find a trusted friend, confidant, or group to whom you can vent your own pent-up feelings.