Sexual assault and sexual violence victims deal with a tremendous amount of trauma that they may never fully recover from. They are likely to be in need of a strong support system surrounding them. Hearing a loved one tell you that they’ve been assaulted can be heartbreaking. While you may want to jump into action, moving too fast can cause the victim not to want to seek resources. Instead, use these methods to provide the support and love they need and help others in similar situations. This is our advice on how to help someone who has experienced sexual assault:
Before asking the person what you can do to help, be a listening ear first. Many victims just want to be heard before anything else, so you should refrain from passing any judgment or persuading them to pursue immediate action during the initial conversation. Instead, as they tell their story, be attentive to what they are saying and give them a safe space to talk. People who experience sexual assault and sexual violence, disproportionately women, might not want to talk about it. Find a balance between letting them come to you, and making sure they know you are there.
Once you’ve heard their story, educate yourself on the issue at hand. Services available differ from place to place, and be mindful of how the victim’s intersectionality may affect them when seeking help. You can find local resources within your community that you can offer to your loved one at the appropriate time. In addition, your search can help you learn more about what recovery may look like for them.
Point them to professional resources
It’s a challenging task for a victim to understand their trauma to transition into a survivor properly. So be sure to tread lightly when suggesting counselling services, as it’s a big step and might throw them off the road to recovery. Instead, encourage them to seek different types of support, such as groups or one-on-one, but don’t force them to do anything they aren’t comfortable with.
Volunteer & donate
If you don’t have a personal relationship with a sexual assault victim, or you want to help others in similar situations, volunteer your time or donate to organisations supporting those who have experienced sexual assault and sexual violence. A quick Google search can provide you with a list of local organisations that need volunteers for tasks such as hotline support, donation drives, fundraising events, administrative support, and much more. In addition, depending on their situations, many people may be needing basic necessities such as clothes, shoes, personal care products, and much more, so you can donate these items to the appropriate organisations.
Here’s a list of organisations located in the United Kingdom that assist victims of sexual assault and sexual violence:
Enduring a sexual assault incident can take a lifetime to recover from. With this in mind, a victim should never be rushed into counselling or other treatment methods until they’re ready. Focus on being a good support system for them and remind them that their trauma is not their fault and they have someone who truly cares for them.