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  • Agnes Wohl

How do you support a friend or family member who has been sexually abused?

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

  • Confusion

  • Trust disturbance

  • Fear of not being believed

  • Lack of self-confidence

  • Loss of appetite or overeating

  • Feeling of anxiety

  • Hypo or hyper-sexual feelings and actions

  • Depression

  • Self-blame

  • 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.

Emotional Support:

  • 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

  • Believe them

  • 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

Physical Support:

  • 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.

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