4 Ways to Support a Friend or Family Member After Sexual Assault
It’s shocking to hear that someone you care about was the victim of a sexual assault or a rape. You want to help, but what can you do? Here are a few suggestions based on what I’ve heard clients say was helpful for them:
- Learn everything you can. Read articles about sexual assault and/or rape. If your loved one is a student, read about the Title 9 process. The bottom line is get informed ASAP. Learn about the issues your loved on may be facing. My clients have often been the ones to educate their own families on these processes (legal, therapeutic, Title 9, work harassment complaint) they are going through. It is a huge relief when someone in their life does some research on their own out of support.
- Listen IF they want to talk. Maybe your loved one wants to tell you the details of what happened. Maybe admitting they went through anything was a huge step and now they don’t want to talk about it anymore. Maybe they want to tell you about how this has impacted their life. Maybe they’re going to ask you for help facing the things they now fear (strangers, night, restaurants, walking on campus, etc) or perhaps they just want to have fun when they’re with you and not think about it. Give them the opportunity to make this decision.
- Call your loved one….don’t wait for them to reach out. Your loved one may feel broken, depressed or scared. They may suddenly stop reaching out to you. It can feel hurtful to you as a friend or family member, but this is not about you-it is a reaction to the trauma they have endured. Be the one to pick up the phone and call. Let them know they’re on your mind and you’re here for them if they need anything. Tell them you care and that you miss them. Don’t lay a guilt trip on them for isolating themselves, but let them know that when they are ready you will still be there.
- If you notice signs of depression or post traumatic stress disorder, offer to help them find a therapist. If, particularly after three months, the victim is reliving the event (through nightmares or flashbacks), avoiding situations that remind them of the event, feeling guilt or shame, feeling less loving and connected to others or feeling extremely jumpy/distracted/vigilant. If the victim begins to think about suicide at any time, they should seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted anytime at 1-800-273-8255.
If you or someone you loved would like to begin healing after trauma, contact me via the form on this page or call Aspire Counseling at 573-328-2288. I will do what it takes to help you find the right fit in a therapist-someone who has a personality that you are comfortable with and the knowledge to provide quality counseling services.
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