Help for victims of sexual misconduct
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- “I believe you” | This may seem unnecessary, but it’s an important message to convey. Even if you have questions or doubts about the circumstances surrounding the assault, it’s vital that you interact with your loved one as though you fully believe him/her.
- “It’s not your fault” | Nearly all survivors question their own actions before, during and even after the assault. It’s important that you let your loved one know that the only one responsible for the assault is the person who committed it. Your loved one neither caused nor deserved what happened.
- “I’m here for you” | Even if your loved one does not want to talk to you about the assault or his/her feelings about it, it’s important that you let him/her know that you are available anytime for support.
- “What can I do?/What will help you?” | Many love ones are afraid of saying or doing something wrong. It’s often helpful to simply ask your loved one what would be helpful for them.
- Treat your loved one the same: Survivors need to know that their loved ones still love them, care about them, and think of them the same as always.
- Empower your loved one: Sexual assault is the ultimate loss of power and control over one’s body, safety and well-being. One of the most impactful things you can do is to help restore your loved one’s sense of control by allowing him/her to make decisions and to play an active role in his/her recovery.
- Maintain your focus: Many loved ones feel very strongly about seeking justice or even retaliation for the assault. While anger at an offender is appropriate, focusing on the offender takes your focus away from where it needs to be – your loved one.
- Follow their lead: Allow your loved one the time and space he/she needs to regain a sense of control and begin the recovery process. This will require an open mind and a lot of patience on your part.
- If your loved one threatens to harm or kill him/herself, you must intervene. If the threat is imminent, call 911 right away. If it is less urgent, contact your local crisis hotline or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Similarly, if your loved one is threatening to harm or kill the offender (or anyone else), you must intervene by calling 911 or your local police department’s dispatch number.
- If your loved one is experiencing prolonged symptoms of distress that are interfering with his/her quality of life, encourage him/her to seek assistance.