Supporting a fighter of sexual violence can be intimidating. Usually, the people are scared of saying or performing ‘the wrong thing’, or of ‘damaging’ somebody further because they ‘don’t know enough’. But you don’t need to be a professional to do this. If you are ready to listen, the survivor who has opened her or his heart to you will be able to direct you to what they need.
Here is some direction in supporting a survivor:
Listen: Listen, and demonstrate that you are paying attention to what she or he has to say, even if it’s hard for you to listen to. You might have a lot of queries but try not to interfere.
Let them Stay in Control: Sexual exploitation and rape can make a person feel incapable and out of control. Survivors want and are worthy to feel that they own their lives again. So it’s vital that you fight the temptation to ‘take over’, for instance by spacing out and doing things that you consider are best. Help her or him to discover them.
Be Patient: Most of the survivors find it hard to believe others because of their experiences. Also, if somebody has told you that they were molested or raped, they’ve shown trust in you. Try to pay back that trust by being patient and not forcing them to tell you whatsoever before they’re ready. It might not be easy for them to do so. They might feel embarrassed.
Believe: People hardly lie about rape or sexual abuse. Why would they? It is imperative to believe what they are saying even if it’s challenging for you to listen to them.
Remember It’s not their Fault: No-one asks to be ill-treated, beaten or raped. No survivor should ever be held responsible for not preventing their own abuse or forcefulness against them. The blame lies with the doer.
Recognize their Courage: It takes a great deal of power and courage both to live on and to talk about experiences of sexual violence. You need to admit this.
Don’t ask Why they Didn’t Say Anything Sooner: They might have tried to tell before and been overlooked or distrusted. They might have been too afraid to say anything. They might have felt humiliated to think about.
Don’t Judge: It is important to be accepting of the way they are reacting, even if it’s not what you were expecting. It is best to escape any thoughts you have of how she or he should behave.
Don’t Ask them Why they Didn’t Fight Back: This will only make them feel damaged and even responsible for what happened to them. Rape and sexual assault are frightening experiences to which people respond in different ways.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself As Well: Supporting a fighter can be hard and it’s OK to take time and space for yourself occasionally. It’s essential not to deceive a survivor’s faith by telling others about their experiences without their consent.