Depending on your life experiences, you may find it difficult to talk to someone who has experienced sexual assault. Every person will react differently to a sexually violent experience, and it’s important to follow the survivor’s lead. However, keeping a few things in mind, you can help create a safe place for a survivor to begin their healing process. Here are a couple of tips from our guide to help get you started:
#1 Create a safe environment and relationship
Safe relationships are consistent, predictable, non-violent, non-shaming, and non-blaming. Create a safe environment by choosing a place to talk where the victim feels comfortable to talk without the fear of being overheard. Never blame the victim or question actions before or after the incident. Ensure confidentiality and always ask permission before doing anything or talking to anyone.
#2 Recognize and acknowledge the impact of trauma
Understand that trauma will affect the way that survivors think, behave, cope, interact, and react. Keep this in mind if you feel like the survivor is being “unreasonable” or “stubborn.” Recognizing the role trauma played in developing negative coping skills will help you help them. Keep in mind, too, that trauma does not affect everyone in the same way; it is a case by case impact. Something that has helped one person may not necessarily help the next.
#3 Empower survivors in the recovery process
The assault may have left the survivor feeling out of control. This is one reason why it’s important that the survivor take control of his or her recovery. You can help by being informed and patiently working together with them to decide the next steps. Validate positive choices, even if they aren’t ones you would choose.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can be a strong support system for those in your life who have experienced sexual assault. To gain more practical tips on talking with survivors, download our guide “Tips for Talking to Survivors of Sexual Assault” here.