When and friend or loved one comes out as a sexual abuse survivor we have a lot of questions and may be unsure of how to move forward. Our reactions can take a huge role in how a survivor processes their abuse and knowing how to respond can help ease the process.
- Be self-aware. Your reaction can be interpreted as judgment or disapproval. Stay neutral and supportive.
- Do not make promises you can’t keep. There are statutes of limitations to consider, the court process can be lengthy and you cannot control the outcome. The only promise you can make is that you’ll be there to support them.
- Let them speak. It’s easy to comfort someone by hushing them or telling them not to think about it, but the process of communicating their story will help them as they pursue their options.
- Let the survivor control the situation. Don’t push. Sharing their experience is difficult and it’s important not to pressure them into speaking. It is their decision if they want to go to counseling or contact the police.
- Don’t question their experience. Assure them that you believe them and avoid questions like, “Are you sure?”
- Don’t overshare. Trying to relate is human nature, but it can take away from the survivor’s experience.
- Educate yourself. Know the signs and what you can do to help.
Your support is crucial to the healing process. If someone you know needs help, you can contact us: