For some survivors, it can be hurtful when their loved one doesn't respond in the way they hoped. Most people don’t understand sexual assault very well, so even if the person loves you very much, they may have an immediate reaction of disbelief, anger, or even blame.
Your role as a supportive listener can make a significant difference in a survivor's healing journey. Your willingness to listen, believe, and provide a safe space can contribute to their sense of empowerment and recovery.
If you know someone in an abusive situation, your support can make a world of difference.
It is important that you communicate support and acceptance to someone who has disclosed a sexual assault to you. Allow the survivor to speak openly and freely. Let them decide what they want to tell you about the assault – don’t force them to talk about it if they aren’t ready. Here are some suggested responses that will convey your support:
Know it was not her/his fault. Most victims of sexual assault feel as though they are somehow to blame for their own assault. Especially, in acquaintance rape/date rape situations victims often feel as though they should have done something different or seen it coming. While this is a normal response, it’s important that as a support person you help the victim know that they are not to blame. No one wants or asks to be sexually assaulted.
One of the most important ways to support survivors is to lend a listening ear without judgment. Believe their stories and validate their experiences. Your empathy can be incredibly healing.
Every survivor's journey is unique. Respect their decisions, whether it's seeking counseling, reporting to authorities, or simply needing time to heal. Let survivors lead the way.
Healing takes time. Be patient and available whenever survivors need to talk, whether it's immediately after an incident or years down the line.