Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy How to Support a Loved One Who Has Experienced Sexual Assault

How to Support a Loved One Who Has Experienced Sexual Assault

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In the last few decades, conversations surrounding sexual assault or battery have been increasing. Several movements like the ME2 movement, have encouraged many assault victims, including celebrities, to come forward and talk about assaults and the mental trauma they have to deal with everyday.

Their physical wounds may have healed, but most victims often suffer from various mental issues, including PTSD. This experience changes the lives of both male and female victims, and their invincible scars may haunt them for decades. That’s why you must learn how to support a family member who has been sexually assaulted in the past.

The fact that they were sexually assaulted over a decade ago doesn’t mean that your family member or friend has healed.  Here are four ways to support a sexual assault victim

1. Educate yourself

Before you talk to a survivor, you must understand the different between sexual battery vs sexual assault. Sexual battery refers to a type of assault that includes the use of threats and force, while sexual assault is a non-consensual attack.

You should look for more details on the effects of this experience online and even talk to some victims. These details will help you understand what they went through while learning about the different forms of sexual assault. 

2. Be their safe person

Instead of judging them or pitying them, you should become their safe person. Basically, be accommodating and always show up when they need you. You don’t even have to force them to talk; you can just stay silent and keep them company. Once they feel safe around you, then they’ll start sharing their experience. And when they start talking, you should listen and always let your loved one lead the conversation.

3. Respect their confidentiality

It takes a lot for a survivor to open up to you, so you should respect their privacy. Never share their experience with anyone without their consent. This will help you build and maintain their trust while they’re healing. Once they’re ready to trust other people, you should encourage them to seek professional help.

4. Believe them

When they share their experience, you should listen and never share any comment that may seem like you’re questioning them or victim-blaming. Remember, these survivors already feel guilt, shame, and self-doubt. Instead of questioning them, you should believe their words and stand with them in their struggle.

Assure them that they are safe and that you love them. You can also ask your loved one if you can help them get medical attention or any other available resource. 

Endnote

A sexual assault or battery can leave the victim traumatised both physically and mentally. When a sexual attack survivor trusts you and opens up, you should be accommodative, listen and believe them. Be the person they can comfortably share their experiences with and even break down in tears without being judged.




Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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