How do you support a friend or family member who has been sexually abused?
If a friend or relative shares that they have been sexually abused, it may be challenging to digest and it will elicit powerful emotions within you. The pain and suffering of a loved one is a difficult event to experience. Having the love and support of others helps a person to recover faster from the trauma.
Sexual abuse is not selective. Anyone can fall victim.
Sexual abuse can be a single episode or multiple recurring incidents by the same person or different people. Although the terror of the abuse is unforgettable, your words cannot erase all the hurt. Being believed is primary. Being supportive involves many things, but some of the best ways to support a friend or family member who has been sexually abused are listed in this blog.
Understand the Aftermath
Without a proper understanding of how victims feel and what they think is complicated to understand what they have gone through and what they deal with every day.
Some common consequences of being Sexually Abused include;
A feeling of isolation and loneliness
Feelings that boundaries have been severely violated
Disconnection from the world
Nightmares and disrupted sleep
A feeling of guilt, shame, and dirtiness
Fear of not being believed
Lack of self-confidence
Loss of appetite or overeating
Feeling of anxiety
Hypo or hyper-sexual feelings and actions
Changed view of the world
How to Show support
Patience is the most essential way to show support for a person dealing with the trauma and aftermath of being sexually abused.
Create enough time for them
Let them talk about the incident whenever they feel they want to
Don’t force the conversation but maintain a stance of willingness and openness
Allow them some alone time, but not for too long
Let them express how they feel without trying to change their feelings
Do not decide you know what is best for them
Do your best not to be judgmental
Listen to their thoughts, feelings, perceptions
When they are ready and if they agree, hold their hand, offer a hug or a gesture to help them relax and feel safe
Let them cry
Just sit beside their tears, anger, or whatever they feel
Don’t try to push any of it aside
Gently encourage them to seek professional help
Make sure their physical health is intact
Gently suggest a physical exam
If they are agreeable, offer to accompany them to appointments
Physical Health and Lifestyle Support:
Spend time with them
Brainstorm with them about future goals an achievable step towards those goals
Go for a walk with them
Find outdoor activities that promote positive physical movement
Help them trust their bodies again through physical activity
Join a dance class together
Promote Mental Health:
Encourage them to find a professionally-led group for people who have been sexually abused.
Help them enjoy life again through pursuing hobbies such as art, drama, music, etc.
For increasing positivity, create a gratitude jar with them, each day encourage them to put a note inside
Suggest they begin journaling
Adult coloring books for relaxing
Suggest creating their own superhero
Collage a recovery bridge
Continue building support for loved ones. There are many choices and never-ending options to seed hope for a better living in the abused ones’ minds.