HELP A FRIEND
Caring responses from support people can help prevent or lessen ongoing trauma and are a crucial element of the healing process. The following tips are meant to help you foster safer, caring, and non-judgmental interactions between yourself and the person you are supporting.
It likely took courage for the person you are supporting to tell you that they have been sexually violated. Many victims/survivors worry that people will not believe them. You can reassure the victim/survivor that you believe them, that they are not alone, and that you are there to listen to and support them.
Thank them for sharing.
Doing so acknowledges the courage it took to tell you about the assault and may help them feel validated in their decision to disclose.
VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS.
The person you are supporting might be feeling confused, afraid, angry, numb, sad or any other combination of emotions. Assure them that their feelings are natural and common by saying something such as: “Your anger is completely legitimate,” or “it’s okay to feel that way.”
Reassure them that the assault was not their fault.
Due to the prevalence of victim-blaming, many people who have survived sexual violence feel guilt or shame, or blame themselves.
It is key to give people who have experienced sexual violence control over all decisions related to their recovery. This includes how they want to be supported. This is part of restoring a sense of power and control to the victim/survivor, something that was taken away when someone chose to violate them.
Address immediate needs.
If the sexual violence was recent, address the victim/survivor’s immediate needs regarding safety and medical attention.
If the person is in immediate danger, work with them to get them out of that situation. This could include calling 911. Remember, however, that some people may not feel comfortable or safe calling the police following an assault (and in general) and may not want you to call 911.
To learn more about how to help, check out the free online course, Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence: A Nova Scotia Resource