If your loved one, partner, or friend, has been assaulted, or raped, or started recovery from childhood sexual abuse, then they will very likely go through a wide range of emotions, feelings, and responses. It will be a time when they need as much support from people around them as possible, including therapists, friends, and in the case of rape, medical staff and possibly the police.
Whilst it is beyond the scope of this article to turn you, the reader, into a highly trained trauma therapist, the fact that you are reading this does show that you are caring enough to try to improve you knowledge of the subject in order to help someone. That in its self must be acknowledged as a very positive sign.
Sometimes people, who are not trained, or familiar with the intestacy of the trauma of rape and abuse, just simply do not know how best to help the victim and will often end up feeling that they are in some way letting down the person whom they care about. "If only I could help better they would recover quicker". If the person who has been abused picks up on these feelings, it can add to their guilt, shame and confusion, making the trauma even harder for them to cope with.
Whilst everyone responds to trauma in differing ways, there are many common feelings, and reactions, that they will go through. These feelings may also "roller coaster" from day to day, even minute to minute. It is important that they are allowed to express these feelings in in open way, and with complete trust in those whom they talk to about these feelings. Rape and sexual abuse are about taking away the victims right to say NO. They are acts that the victim had no control over. They remove self worth, trust and replace them with guilt and shame. It is vital that the victim regains control and trust. The victim MUST be allowed to proceed at their own pace, and NOT have feelings invalidated with callus remarks such as "isn't it time you were over it now".
There are NO fixed rules to follow in helping someone to recover as such, because everyone is different, but there are some simple DOES and DON'Ts that do help.
Treat them as guidelines rather than fixed rules.
Do try to learn about the effects of abuse and the recovery process.
It will help if you read up on the effects of childhood sexual abuse, or rape, thus learning what some of the many effects can be. In doing so, you will have not only a better understanding of what to expect, but will also be able to reassure the person that you care about that what they are feeling is normal, and understandable.
Do learn about the effects of abuse and the recovery process
Do help the survivor to make choices
Do validate feelings
Do encourage therapy for the survivor
Do find therapy or support for yourself
Do respect boundaries and limits
Do learn and practice time out skills to avoid arguments
Do communicate about sexuality
Do learn to play
Do find time to be together and also time to be apart
Do blame the offender(s), NEVER the survivor
Do plan for crises (including possible suicidal thoughts)
Do acknowledge progress in the healing process
Do get support for yourself
Do not be a martyr
Do not overwhelm the survivor with your own anger
Do not take outbursts personally
Do not force forgiveness on the survivor
Do not pronounce a "cure" or try to hurry the recovery process
Do not force cheerfulness on the survivor
Do not isolate your self
Do not try to do the healing for the survivor
For Partners, Friends and Loved Ones
Healing Our Past Experiences
Self-help and support services for men and women survivors of childhood and adult sexual abuse
charity reg no 1119389
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If you are a partner, loved one, friend or supporter of a sexual abuse survivor and would like to join an online scheduled and moderated chat support group for survivors
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In January 2009HOPE will be starting a groups for partners, loved ones, friends
and supporters of sexual abuse survivors in Scarborough. To find out please leave an email message