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Ways to Support a Survivor After a Sexual Assault

Support- what does that look like and how do we respond when someone has been hurt? We know that sexual trauma is an abnormal experience not meant to be imposed on people. Therefore, it is completely normal to be left with varying feelings, confusions, and questions on how to respond. While each survivor’s experience and response are unique to them, there are some overall ways in which one can be a support. Safety/Physical Needs Survivors may have safety and medical needs after an assault. If the person is unsure of resources or steps to take, it can be helpful to connect them to a sexual assault provider for support. They can help navigate through these needs, connect to resources and process options. Should a survivor choose any of these supports you can offer to go with them. If they do not want accompaniment respecting their decision is also a support. Believe Them Sexual assault/abuse is never the survivor’s fault! While trying to make meaning of what happened amongst the confusion, survivors can sometimes feel a sense of self blame. Stating clearly and repeatedly over time that this is not their fault can help bring clarity to that truth. Choices and Control Violation happens by overriding one’s boundaries and inflicting control over another person. Allowing survivors to make decisions and choices regarding next steps can help empower the survivor. Asking permissions for safe touch such as a hug can help re- establish a sense of control and security. Allow Feelings and Expressions Common feelings after assault can include but not limited to anger, fear, shame, guilt, and powerlessness. They may yell, cry, or have times of silence. Try not to fix it, being present with someone can be very powerful. This can include actively listening, validating their feelings, avoiding giving advice, and sometimes just sitting with someone in that space of silence. Other expressions survivors may experience include flashbacks, nightmares, numbing, trouble sleeping and concentrating. Avoid Threatening Suspect Threats of harm to perpetrator can cause survivors to carry additional concerns for your safety. This can be an added stressor to them in already stressful situation. Be a Safe Person Respect the persons confidentiality. Allow them to decide when, where, and if they want to tell their story. Allow time Healing is a process. Giving the survivor that space and time is another way to walk along- side them in their healing journey. Connect to Resources You can share information on counseling and advocacy services. It is important to leave the decision to call or not to the survivor. Stay Calm With Survivor This is not always as simple as it sounds. As a support you may be experiencing your own feelings of anxiety, anger, fear, or grief surrounding the trauma. This is completely normal, ok, and important to also include consideration of what is needed for your self -care and healing. This may include reaching out for help to process through the feelings and questions you may have. Agencies like SARA can be a support to you in this process. Contact Information and Additional Resources SARA 24 HR Hotline 434-977-7273 SARA Offices 434-295-7273 SUICIDE 24 HR Hotline 800. 273.TALK (8255) National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ References (n.d.). Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) |. https://www.pcar.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdfs/friends_and_family_guide_final.pdf Blog Articles

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