Supporting someone you know
Supporting someone who has experienced sexual violence might feel like a frightening experience. We can support you to support them. You might feel that they need support, but they may not feel ready. It is important that the person feels able and ready to accept support.
There is no right or wrong way to support someone but the best thing that you can do is listen to them and ask them what they need from you. Listen carefully and show that you understand and that you believe them (even if you find this difficult). Most people tend to blame themselves and worry that they won’t be believed. If they think you don’t believe them, they might close down and stop talking about how they feel.
Try not to ask questions. Let them explain in their own time. Things might not make total sense to them, or to you, but that is okay. Trauma memories are confusing and difficult to understand.
It is important the person feels in control. Let them make the decisions and take charge of their own life. You might feel you know what is best for them and that they are not able to make the best decisions for themselves. Sexual abuse can make a person feel powerless as they did not have any control over the situation they have endured, so it is important to allow them to feel empowered.
Always check with them that what you are doing is okay. Don’t assume that they want you to tell their friends or family. Don’t assume that they want to speak to their GP or a support service. Don’t make any appointments on their behalf but ask them if they would like to you help them to do so.
Remember that is not their fault and reassure them of this. Be patient and allow them space and time to tell you and to access support. If someone has confided in you, they are demonstrating that they trust you. Tell them that you are glad that they have trusted you.
Take care of yourself and get support when you need it.