How to Support the Sexual Assault Survivors in Your Life

April 3, 2014

In the United States, April marks National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goals of SAAM are to increase public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities on how sexual violence can be prevented.

If you know a survivor of sexual assault or sexual violence, now is a great time to reach out and let him or her know how much you care. It can be very difficult to talk about sexual violence, but supportive conversations can play a critical role in the healing process. This post will discuss ways in which you can support the sexual abuse survivors in your life.

Listen without expressing judgment. 

If someone discloses the details of a sexual assault, give him or her your full attention. Make sure to let that person know that he or she is not to blame for what happened. Never question a survivor’s actions or judge that person in any way. Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault!

Express your sympathy for what occurred, and make it clear that you are available to talk with the survivor about his or her feelings in the future.

You may want to encourage the survivor to seek professional treatment. The trained volunteers who take calls via the National Sexual Assault Hotline can point the survivor in the right direction. The number for the hotline is (800) 656-HOPE.

Show respect for the survivor.

Sexual assault survivors often feel isolated and alone. Many survivors do not tell their close friends and loved ones what happened. Sometimes, survivors suppress what happened and keep their emotions bottled up for years or even decades.

Anyone who is brave enough to break the silence on sexual violence deserves respect. Tell the survivor that he or she is helping others by coming forward. Commend the survivor’s actions, and tell the survivor that you respect and admire him or her.

Sexual assault survivors deal with a range of emotions, including anger, guilt, fear, shame, and sorrow. Never criticize a survivor for how he or she is coping during the recovery process.

If a sexual assault survivor asks for privacy, respect his or her wishes. Never disclose details about a survivor’s experience without his or her explicit consent.

Foster an open dialogue.

Remind the sexual assault survivors in your life that you are available to talk if they ever feel lonesome, sad, scared, or angry. Encourage open and honest conversations by offering your support and reassurance.

Recovering from sexual assault can take years, or even a lifetime. Disclosure is rarely a one-time event, and may occur over a series of separate conversations. Your compassion can make a huge difference in a survivor’s life.

To learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, visit:

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