How to Communicate With a Sexual Assault Survivor
When a loved one confides in you about their experience with sexual assault, it can be challenging to know what to say and how to support them going forward. When you want to show your support and care about helping them move forward with their lives, it’s essential to know the things you can do to help them through their recovery journey. It’s also critical to be sensitive to their needs and understand how the things you say to them can impact their recovery from sexual assault. Here are some tips on supporting your loved one who is a sexual assault survivor.
Let Them Know You Believe Them
One of the most critical factors in supporting a sexual assault survivor is to let them know that you believe them. Sadly, victim-blaming is widespread when a survivor speaks out against their perpetrator. Although the “Me Too” movement has spread awareness about sexual assault and the dangers of victim-blaming to survivors, often the victim is unfairly put at fault for the assault. Victim-blaming is one of the main reasons survivors are afraid to speak out. The following are things you should and shouldn’t say to a sexual assault survivor:
Say These Things to Show Your Support
- I believe you.
- Thank you for sharing your experience with me.
- What happened to you is not your fault.
- You didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this.
- This shouldn’t have happened to you.
- I am here to listen when you need me.
- You are not alone.
- I care about you.
Victims are often met with statements that imply the sexual assault was their fault. Supporting a sexual assault survivor means refraining from using insensitive phrases. Don’t say these things to a sexual assault survivor:
- What were you wearing?
- Why did you go home with them?
- What did you think was going to happen?
- What were you thinking?
- Why did you go alone?
- Why didn’t you fight back?
- Just get over it.
- Why didn’t you report this?
- After all this time, why are you just talking about this now?
All of the above are statements that blame the victim for the assault. No matter what someone is wearing, the decisions they made, or how hard they fought back, sexual assault is NEVER okay, and no one deserves to be sexually assaulted for any reason.
After a sexual assault, survivors have many different fears which can deter them from reporting the incident right away. It could take weeks, months, even years for some to be ready to speak out. It’s crucial to refrain from judging your loved ones about the time frame they decided to come forward about their assault. The recovery process is long and painful. The trauma can trigger depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health disorders, a lifetime battle for many.
Related Article: Why Sexual Assualt Victims Are Afraid to Speak Up
What to Do After Your Loved One Told You Their Story
In addition to the things you should and shouldn’t say to a sexual assault survivor, it’s also critical that you know how to handle the information that they shared with you. Here’s how to continue your support throughout their recovery journey:
Don’t Share Their Story With Others
When someone trusts you with their story of sexual assault, don’t share it with anyone else. Their story is theirs and not your story to tell. Unless they permit you to speak about it, don’t. Your loved one told you because they trust you. Breaking your trust and betraying your loved one can make the situation that much more difficult for them to cope with and impact their recovery.
Don’t Compare Their Sexual Assault to Other Survivors’ Stories
When survivors open up about their sexual assault, it’s vital to keep the comparisons to other assault victims’ stories out of the conversation. Every survivor’s story is different and highly personal. For example, you mitigate their experience by saying things like, “at least you weren’t assaulted at knifepoint like that girl I saw on the news.” Statements like these can not only trigger more fear and anxiety about the assault, but it can also make the victim feel like you are discrediting their experience and trivializing their pain.
Don’t Pry for Details of Their Sexual Assualt
Asking a survivor for details about their sexual assault experience is invasive and insensitive. Sharing details of their assault means reliving the ordeal. While some survivors may find that talking out the details of the assault can be healing, it’s critical to let them bring it up first. Leave this conversation up to them.
Getting Help After Sexual Assault
Survivors of sexual assault often feel alone and scared, making it difficult for them to speak out and get help. Many sexual assault survivors feel shame, guilt, and worry that they will not be believed if they talk about their assault. We understand how difficult it is to speak out against your perpetrator. We believe you, and when you are ready to speak out, we are here to support you and guide you through every step of the legal process in holding your perpetrator accountable. At , we are prepared to defend your right to seek compensation.
Contact us today at (833) 456-3529 to learn your rights.