Millions of people around the world become victims of sexual abuse every day, a crime that is highly prevalent because most victims do not want to talk about it, let alone report it to the authorities. Precisely, the fact that little is said about abuse means that people do not know how to talk to victims of sexual abuse or how to support them.
Telling their story of abuse is one of the most difficult things victims of sexual abuse have to go through, even more so if the person they choose to confide in responds with anger, disbelief, distrust or simply decides to minimize what happened.
Definitely, no one is prepared for someone in their close environment to tell them that they were a victim of sexual abuse. Therefore, today we want to share with you some tips on how to create a safe space for that person and how to provide the support they need.
10 recommendations for supporting victims of sexual abuse
Many people who have suffered sexual abuse have tried to talk about what happened to them, however, when they have done so, they have been judged, blamed and even accused of lying. As a result, they decide not to talk about what happened to them and carry this heavy emotional burden alone.
If someone close to you seeks you out to share the secret that is destroying their life, keep the following guidelines in mind:
Listen carefully. Giving your full attention to someone who has decided to confide such a painful experience is essential. It is also important to make it clear that you believe everything they are telling you.
Value their courage. Making the decision to talk about the abuse is not an easy task, recognize their courage and let them know that you are there to support and accompany them.
Avoid judgment. In cases of sexual abuse, it is common to hear expressions such as: “you probably asked for it,” “you shouldn’t have dressed that way,” and “you couldn’t be alone at a certain time.” These phrases only bring more pain to the victims of sexual abuse.
Make it clear that it is not their fault. The only one to blame for sexual abuse is the perpetrator; however, many times victims feel that they did something to deserve the pain they are feeling. Reiterating that they are not to blame is very important.
Avoid minimizing the facts. We often think that things that happen to other people are not that serious. When cases of sexual abuse occur, there are also those who try to pretend that nothing happened. Any type of abuse is serious and should not be minimized.
Provide support and accompaniment. Regardless of who they have around them, victims of sexual abuse feel immensely alone in dealing with this trauma. Knowing that they can count on someone’s support and companionship is very important for someone who has suffered this painful experience.
Assist them in finding help. Having the support of experts to deal with this type of situation is fundamental. Use helplines and mental health professionals to find out the right way to deal with this type of situation.
Remind the victim that reporting is important. Only the person who suffered sexual abuse can decide to report it to the authorities; however, it is important to be clear that reporting can save many lives and prevent other children, adolescents, men, or women from suffering this painful experience.
Accompany your child to seek psychological help. A trauma as strong as sexual abuse requires the help of a professional to be processed properly. Pretending to heal this type of trauma without help can have more serious and even fatal repercussions.
Respect their decisions. Each step in overcoming sexual abuse is difficult and painful and often requires more time. Avoid pressuring the victim and respect their decisions.
Managing emotions correctly and not getting carried away by the helplessness and anger of seeing someone who is important to us suffer is essential to be able to provide the support that victims of sexual abuse require. You can ease their burden and help them in their healing process.
Help them regain their confidence
One of the most painful aspects of sexual abuse is that the survivor has the feeling that they have lost control of their body and situations and live in permanent fear. Creating a safe environment for survivors of sexual abuse is essential.
Remember that phrases such as: “I believe you,” “It’s not your fault,” “You are not alone,” “I am here to help you,” can contribute to validating their emotions and helping them regain their confidence.
In the #YoDigoNoMas Movement, we provide a safe and trusted space for survivors of sexual abuse to break the silence and move towards healing those deep wounds. Learn more about our Movement and join our cause.