How to Be An Ally to a Survivor of Sexual Assault
Survivors of sexual assault need support, especially from their loved ones and their community. If someone reaches out to you for help, here are some things you can do to help them:
Start by believing. If someone tells you that they were assaulted, BELIEVE THEM. If they confide in you, they trust you deeply; it's key that the first person they tell are some of the most influential factors to healing. Only 2-6% of assaults are falsely reported.
Tell them: "It's not your fault." It's very common for sexual assault survivors to blame themselves for the assault. In reality, the only person responsible for sexual assault is the perpetrator.
Listen, be there, & don't judge. Take time to actively listen to them; don't ask questions to satisfy your own curiosity, just listen. While listening, acknowledge your own biases and beliefs about sexual assault to yourself. Get informed about the myths and facts regarding sexual assault.
Offer resources/options & respect the survivor's decision about what they want to do next. During the assault, their power to choose was taken away. Give them that power back.
Tell them about the "Jane Doe"/anonymous SART exam. If someone has been sexually assaulted, they can receive medical care and have any evidence collected without mandatory prosecution. Before this option was available, many survivors would not report in fear of retaliation or don't want to be forced to deal with the legal system. This option offers a solution to those barriers. Evidence is kept for 20 years or if the assault occurred before the survivor's 18 years of age then up to their 40th birthday, and the survivor still has the option to prosecute should they change their mind.
Don't play rescuer. Be patient. It will take time for the survivor to heal. Everyone reacts differently to the trauma of an assault and their needs will vary although time is a common denominator in the recovery from an assault. Be patient with them and remind them to be patient with themselves.
1 in 2 women have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime
1 in 5 men have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime
41% of women reported experiencing physically aggressive street harassment
Only 26% of men who experienced childhood sexual abuse disclosed at the time of the abuse
67.5% of instances of rape are estimated to go unreported
Among college women, 9 out of 10 victims of sexual assault knew the person who sexually assaulted them
1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old
This post was inspired by UCSC CARE Office's Sexual Assault Awareness Month Flyer.