For a sexual assault survivor, disclosing that information can be difficult and is a vulnerable thing for them to do. It is important that the survivor has a good support system to help them to process trauma. Being apart of a support system also requires you to care for yourself too. Below are ways to support yourself and the survivor.
- Validate - Believe your friend. People rarely lie about being sexually assaulted. The survivor may feel ashamed or at fault. People respond to traumatic experiences in different ways. If they aren't responding in a way you may not expect - this doesn't mean the trauma did not occur.
Things to say: "I believe you. It took a lot of courage to tell me about this. Thank you for telling me this. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. You did nothing wrong. You are not alone. I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can. I’m sorry this happened. This shouldn’t have happened to you."
- Use active listening. - Listen to your friend in a compassionate, non-judgemental way. Avoid pushing for questions or details or provide advice or solutions.
- Let them make their own decisions. - Help your friend to be aware of the resources available to them, but allow them to make their own choices. Offer to accompany them to a hospital, doctor's office or counselor's office.
- Check In - Check on the survivor to remind them that they still have your support and that you still care, and remind them of resources available to them.
- Set boundaries - Don't jeopardize your own physical or mental health in support of your friend. Agree on a time for when you can be available for support.