This blog is specifically for those who have someone in their life who has experienced sexual assault. Whether it be a sister, brother, lover, or friend, I will talk about some things to keep in mind that will allow you to be present for them during their pain. The key points I will be discussing are: your love for them, safety, respecting their unique healing journey, reading/workshops, it’s not their fault.
The first thing I’d like to point out is that you love them. Come back to this fact again and again, when you struggle with supporting them or when you or your loved one feel as if either of you are going crazy. Let this be the base of your support for them, because above all else, to love someone is to set them free to be exactly who they are; sometimes exactly who they are is someone feeling intense pain after a sexual assault.
If their assault recently happened, safety first, Do they need to go to the doctor for a STD test? Was there any damage to organs or other parts of the body? If they were assaulted as a child, do they still have contact with the person that perpetrated on them? If yes, is that person still hurting them (emotionally, sexually or physically)? There are many supports in Boulder if your loved one is still being abused. Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA) has case managers who can help you navigate the legal system, if this is needed. Blue Sky Bridge is an organization that supports police in investigating cases of child sexual abuse. Please keep in mind, you are not a super hero, and neither is your loved one; sometimes we need professional help. Neither you nor your loved one are weak to ask for help; you are courageous.
If your loved one is just beginning or has been on their healing journey for some time; it is hurtful to ask them; when will you be over this? Or Shouldn’t you be better by now? This statement or question can make your loved one feel that they have no control over their healing or imply that they are not doing something right or taking too long. It can even imply that you are getting tired of supporting them. Remember, you are reading this blog because you love them and want to be supportive. An alternative to these may be a reflection of how you are feeling. It’s ok to say that you are frustrated they have nightmares every night because you love them so much it hurts you to see them hurt. You can share a feeling of yours and connect it back to your care for them. It’s ok to say how impotent you feel in helping them sometimes. This can help your loved one trust that you will always be truthful with them. It may also validate their own feelings of frustration.
Sometimes, if we don’t know much about the effects of sexual assault, it can lead us to wonder why the healing journey can be a seemingly long process. I suggest reading about the subject. There are great blogs by RAINN, WINGS, MESA, The Blue Bench, and more. Some of these websites also have suggested reading lists with books. I would also suggest reading about how the nervous system is affected by trauma. Our bodies can be extremely affected by this and because the mind and body are connected, symptoms show up in our interactions with each other.
Always remember that it was never their fault. No one would ever want for such a traumatic and painful experience to happen to them. Children and adults, rarely, if every lie about this. You may have heard people say things like; she was wearing slutty clothing and so no wonder that happened or, she was a teenager, she should have known not to flirt with her adult neighbor. These, and many other victim blaming/shaming statements are just not true. No matter the actions your loved one took; they NEVER wanted this to happen to them and nothing they did led to them being assaulted. Saying something like this to them minimizes their pain and disconnects the relationship. You want connection with them and them with you.
Last but not least, remember that you and your loved one are LIVING and are here to enjoy life. Even in our deepest pain is the opportunity to see that we are here to love each other and that this is possible in every moment, even in pain.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to support your loved one. If you found this blog helpful, I also have a free guide: Understanding Sexual Abuse that you can download for free on the HoloBeing Website. If you are in a romantic relationship with a survivor of sexual assault and your relationship has been affected, I see couples to help them move through their blocks and improve communication around this topic. If you have any questions, schedule a free 15 minute phone consult and we can discuss working together and how I can help.