Experiences with sexual misconduct or sexual violence can be traumatic. The impact of these experiences is different for everyone, and it is not only the survivors who are affected but their friends and families as well. Seeing someone you care about going through so hard and stressful can make you feel anxious, frustrated, angry, and even helpless. You may feel as if you don’t know what to say or do. This is normal, and it is all right. Here are some helpful suggestions:
- Listen. While it can be difficult for many survivors to talk about what happened, talking can be a form of release for them. Having someone there to listen can make them feel supported.
- Tell the survivor that you believe him/her, and gently reassure him/her that what happened was not his/her fault.
- Let the survivor choose what to tell you. Don’t pressure him/her for details about what happened. You may be trying to understand what happened by asking questions but it might make the situation more stressful for the survivor.
- Be patient. Dealing with experiences like this is a process. There will be tough times and challenges.
- Ask how you can help. It will show your concern without seeming as if you’re trying to tell him/her what to do.
- Let the survivor know that you are there for him/her. Offer to go with him/her to help with whatever s/he chooses to do, such as reporting the experience or going to a doctor.
Although you want to support the survivor, you should bear in mind that you can also be impacted by what happened. Some people think that trauma only occurs in the actual survivors themselves. That is not true. Hearing about these situations can be very upsetting, and you should not try to ignore or downplay these feelings. If you find that you are feeling this way, it could be helpful to talk to someone. CAP can help connect you to counseling resources. Call 503-494-3256 or 833-495-CAPS (2277).