About 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been raped or have survived an attempted rape.
It’s more common than we like to think about, and unfortunately, you may know a survivor of sexual abuse.
If a loved one comes forward and shares their story, you may not know what to do.
Keep reading and we’ll show you some tools you can use when learning how to help sexual assault victims.
If a survivor of sexual abuse confides in you, the most important thing you can do is listen.
Allow them to share whatever details they are comfortable sharing, and don’t ask any probing questions. It’s important to respect their boundaries during this emotional period.
It may be your inclination to hug or hold their hand, but ask before you give them any physical touch. Their space should be respected, and if you’re unsure what to do, just don’t touch them.
Let them express their emotions freely. If they are crying, don’t try to cheer them up or do something to make them stop crying.
You should also keep your own feelings to yourself. You aren’t there to fix a problem, you are there to listen and offer support. Don’t get angry, even if you’re angry at the abuser.
Believe Their Story
In America, only 230 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported. Of those who chose not to report, 20% were afraid of retaliation.
Victims often feel shame or fear that nobody will believe them. It is important to communicate to them that you believe their story, even if they can’t remember every detail.
After someone has shared their story, thank them for opening up. Tell them that they didn’t deserve it, and that you will support and will respect them through their recovery.
You should also educate yourself on the impact of sexual abuse. Especially if you have never experienced sexual abuse, leaning more will help you understand what they’re going through.
In the short term, they may be experiencing physical pain, like bruising or bleeding. Longterm, they may have lasting side effects like PTSD, dissociative episodes, or depression.
Empower Survivors of Sexual Assault
Recovering from sexual abuse is a long, emotional process. You can ask them if there’s anything you can do to help, but don’t try to force your help onto them.
If the survivor of sexual assault wants to take action against their abuser, there are law firms that specialize in sexual abuse cases, like the Dordulian Law Group.
It’s important to only take action when the survivor is ready to. Reaching out to the authorities or a lawyer without the victim’s knowledge will shatter their trust.
Reliving these traumatic memories can be traumatic, so let them know that you will support them through the process.
Recovery is not linear, and the survivor of sexual abuse may combat negative side effects for years. Continue to check in with them, and help them when they ask.
For more advice, browse the other posts on our blog.