How to Support Survivors

Ways You Can Provide Support for Survivors in Your Life

For Friends and Loved Ones of Survivors

Witnessing someone you care deeply for in pain can be incredibly challenging. Here are a few ways you can help survivors in your life:

  • Listen: One of the most crucial forms of support for a survivor of sexual assault is actively listening. Some survivors may feel the need to share their experience immediately, while others might require more time. Let your loved one know that you are ready to listen whenever they are ready to open up. During the conversation, simply lend an empathetic ear without judgment.
  • Believe: Survivors often harbor worries about not being believed when discussing such a personal and sensitive matter as a sexual assault. If someone chooses to confide in you, it signifies a deep level of trust. Avoid asking questions that might imply doubt and directly convey your belief in the survivor’s story. By providing a sense of belief, you contribute to their healing process.
  • Respect their autonomy: Sexual assault can strip away a survivor’s power and sense of control. By respecting their decisions, you help them regain these feelings. Making choices is a crucial step toward reclaiming personal power. While you can assist by providing information and understanding options, ultimately, the survivor needs to make their own decisions. You can empower your loved one by supporting their choices, even if you may not necessarily agree with them.
  • Honor their privacy: Always seek consent before sharing any information entrusted to you with others. By seeking permission first, you grant control to the survivor—a vital component of their healing journey.
  • Educate yourself: Learn more about common reactions and experiences among survivors of assault. Expanding your knowledge will enable you to better understand and support the survivor.
  • Prioritize self-care: If a survivor chooses to share their assault with you, it signifies the importance of your presence in their life. Take care of yourself and your emotions to ensure you are better equipped to provide meaningful support. Remember that all BARCC services are free, confidential, and available to you.

For Parents and Care Givers of Survivors

Family crises bring about a process of grief and healing. If you have encountered a family crisis in the past, such as a divorce or a child’s unexpected illness, you may recall feeling initial shock and disbelief. Eventually, you may have desired a return to normalcy, with your family adjusting to the changes. In some ways, a sexual assault is akin to other crises, but it also has its unique aspects.

If your child has experienced sexual assault, you may have concerns about the following:

  • How to discuss the incident with your child: Openly talking about sex is a challenging task, especially when it involves conversing with your child, regardless of their age. It’s natural to have complicated or judgmental emotions regarding your child’s actions. Seeking guidance on how to communicate with your child can boost your confidence in such conversations. BARCC counselors are available to offer the necessary guidance.
  • Ensuring your child’s safety: Most parents consider it their responsibility to keep their child safe. When a child gets hurt, this responsibility can be deeply felt. Parents may react differently to the situation. While one parent may want to remove their child from school immediately, another parent may feel uncertain about the reported abuse.
  • Your feelings towards the perpetrator: The younger your child is, the higher the chances that you know the offender. It could be someone trusted, such as a teacher, coach, family member, another child or teenager, or someone your child is dating. The stronger your emotional attachment to the offender, the harder it may be to make decisions that serve the best interests of both you and your child. Seeking support to help you process your emotions can be beneficial.
  • Assessing the validity of your child’s report: It is uncommon for a child to fabricate instances of sexual assault or abuse. However, children sometimes provide varying accounts to different individuals. This can stem from confusion or fear of how the recipient might react. It’s crucial for you to offer support to your child as they disclose their experience.
  • Easing the situation for your child: Naturally, parents dislike seeing their child in pain and want them to feel better quickly. However, recovering from sexual assault is a process that takes time. Parents can assist by gaining knowledge about the healing journey and offering unwavering support to their child. It’s also important for parents to recognize their own struggles and seek help when needed.
  • Impact on your other children: When a child experiences sexual assault or abuse, it affects the entire family. You might feel overly protective of your other children. Explaining your child’s emotional distress, as well as your own, to your other children can present challenges. The responsibility of caring for a child in crisis might also leave you feeling overwhelmed and neglectful towards your other children.
  • Your personal history of trauma: If you have experienced sexual assault in the past, this situation may be triggering for you. It’s crucial to prioritize your own well-being and seek the necessary support and assistance. Remember that taking care of yourself allows you to better support your child during this crisis.

The best way to care for your child is to also remember to care for yourself. You will need your own support from friends, family members, or community services to help you with your child’s and your family’s recovery from sexual assault. WOAR’s counselors, court advocates, and case managers can help. Please call our 24/7 hotline at 215-985-3333.