Sexual assault is an act of violence, not sex. It is a traumatic event that most deeply affects the survivor, but also has impacts on the people that care about her/him. If you discover your friend or partner has been sexually assaulted you may want to help, but not know how. Below are some tips for being a supportive partner or friend.
1. Give them control over their healing process. Everyone heals in their own way and time. All power and control was stripped from the survivor during the violation. Returning control to them is an essential step to demonstrating respect and care.
2. Believe them unconditionally. More than 98% of people who seek help for sexual violence are truthful. Make it clear that you believe your partner or friend was violated.
3. Reassure them that they are NOT to blame. Only the perpetrator is to blame. It does not matter where the survivor was, or what they were wearing or doing. The fault lies solely with the perpetrator.
4. Listen respectfully. Let your partner/friend know that you will listen respectfully, then do so. Allow your friend to speak without interrupting. If they pause or stop, sit quietly and let them guide the conversation.
5. Respect quiet. Sometimes a victim will need you to be a supportive, but quiet, presence. Accept that quiet is a necessary part of healing, and be willing to offer quiet support.
6. Respect personal space. Sit at a comfortable distance for the survivor and face them. You may want to touch them reassuringly, but ask first. Honor the survivor’s answer and know it isn’t personal – just what theyneed right now.
7. Suggest resources, but remember every step in the healing process the survivor's choice. Survivors are strongly encouraged to seek medical help, information and support. Refer the survivor to these resources, but allow them to make the decisions regarding their care.
8. Give it time. Wanting to quickly fix everything is normal, but not realistic. Violence takes time to heal. Respect the survivor’s process no matter how long it takes.
9. Respect the survivor’s privacy. Your partner or friend has trusted you with deeply personal information. If they have confided in you, then respect their privacy and keep the story to yourself unless you are explicitly given permission to share.
10. Seek help for yourself. As someone supporting a survivor you will likely also experience a range of thoughts, feelings and questions. Confusing, contradicting or upsetting thoughts are normal. Seek support for yourself to ensure you are taking care of your own well being.
There is no right way to heal. You must be patient with the survivor, and with yourself. The emotional impact of violence may take time, patience and space to heal. For additional resources please contact Jessica Clark or Felicia cenca, Coordinators for Violence Response at 336-278-5009 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.