Helping A Loved One After Sexual Assault
Sexual abuse is a deeply traumatic experience that can have a lasting impact on a survivor’s life. If someone you love has gone through this experience, it is essential to be there for them and provide them with the support they need to heal.
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Helping A Loved One Who Just Went Through The Trauma Of Sexual Abuse
All survivors of sexual assault will have their own unique experiences following the traumatic event. While survivors may require support in different forms, support in general is critical to a victim’s healing. As the loved one of a sexual assault survivor, it’s important to know how to offer help to sexual assault victims so that they can begin rebuilding the life that they deserve.
At Bachus & Schanker, we understand the importance of listening to survivors and standing up to protect them when they are unable to do so for themselves. Our victim advocates and sexual assault lawyers work with survivors of sexual assault to help give them the justice and restitution they deserve.
Ways To Support A Loved One Who Was Sexually Abused
When considering how to help a sexual assault victim, there are different ways you can offer support. Depending on their age, the trauma they are experiencing, and their openness to talk about their experience, some ways may work better than others. Below are some common tactics to consider as you work with your loved one through this difficult time.
- Listen to them and believe them – It’s an incredibly difficult thing for a sexual assault survivor to share their experience, even with a trusted friend or loved one. If a victim comes to you and confides in you about their sexual assault, let them speak and believe them when they do so. The very act of speaking up about the abuse can be a good step toward healing for victims. Very few reports of sexual assault are false, so it’s important that if a victim does share their assault with you, you believe them.
- Remain calm – It’s understandable to get upset, angry, and even vengeful toward the individual who may have sexually abused your loved one. This is especially the case if the abuser is someone you know, as a majority of abusers are known to the victim. Allow law enforcement to do their job in dealing with the abuser. Your job is to remain calm and listen to your loved one as you help support them through this difficult time.
- Let your friend know he or she is not alone – Even if you are not a trained professional, it’s important to let your loved one know they are not alone. By expressing that they have your support, they know that you are someone they can lean on when times get tough.
- Let your friend know it is not his or her fault – Victims will often blame themselves or feel guilty because of the assault. It’s important to emphasize that the assault was not the fault of your loved one. It will take many times of repeating this phrase until your loved one is able to process the reality that they are not to blame.
- Ask permission – Speaking up about the abuse can be a very triggering thing. But when a loved one confides in you, it’s important to always wait for them to take the lead if they do decide to bring up the discussion again. If you have concerns or questions, always ask permission from your loved one to make sure that they feel comfortable responding. By asking permission, you also help to build a relationship of trust so that they feel even more comfortable coming to you again.
- Empower them by being there for them – Simply being there for your loved one does a great service as far as support goes. Be there for them when they need to talk or when they just need someone around them. More importantly, be there with them during difficult times like medical care appointments, meetings with law enforcement, meetings with lawyers, and on the way to and from appointments with a therapist.
- Encourage counseling and other resources – Mental health counseling sessions with a licensed professional can help your loved one process the many layers associated with their trauma. It’s important to encourage these services. If your loved one is apprehensive, suggest going with him or her and being a bridge of support until they are able to handle the counseling sessions on their own. If your loved one is apprehensive about counseling sessions still, connect them with organizations that provide sexual assault survivor resources. Organizations, including the Rape Incest and Abuse National Network (RAINN) and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA), can be helpful sources to tap into.
- Keep confidentiality – The most important thing you can do when supporting your loved one is to maintain full confidentiality. This means respecting them as an individual by not sharing their story with anyone else, no matter how close this third party might be to you. Confidentiality shows your loved one that they can trust you, that you are there for them, and that you won’t betray them.
- Respect their decisions and boundaries – If a loved one opens up to you one day, but then the next day, they are completely shut down and shut you out, do not take this personally. It is important to respect your loved one’s decisions and boundaries when it comes to talking about sexual abuse, engaging in certain activities, or sometimes, just seeing to their day-to-day business. The way your loved one processes the trauma can be very different from someone else who has experienced a similar assault. Because of this, you should not have any specific expectations of your loved ones, and you should not try to coerce them to do any specific activity if they have made it clear that they do not want to or are not ready to do it.
The Sexual Assault Lawyers At Bachus & Schanker Are Here To Help Victims Of Sexual Assault
One helpful resource to tap into is seeking legal representation from an experienced sexual assault lawyer. Legal representation allows your loved one to understand their victim’s rights and options, and it empowers them to take action, like file a civil claim against their abuser and seek out the restitution they deserve.
At Bachus & Schanker, we understand the importance of representing survivors of sexual assault and the great care that comes with that representation. Our law firm provides advocates to work alongside all victims we represent to give them the care and support they need.
This intentionally selected team works alongside our specialized Elite Litigation Group on behalf of our clients who were survivors of assault, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Our victim advocates allow survivors to seek the care and support they deserve as they navigate the legal process. This highly experienced team will work to uncover pertinent evidence, including DNA and documentation related to your loved one’s sexual assault.
In addition to offering legal guidance, our advocates do an exceptional job supporting victims of sexual assault and connecting them with other resources they can tap into for support. The victim advocates at Bachus & Schanker pursue all elements of your loved one’s case so that they can help hold abusers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Sexual Assault Statistics. (2023).
Coalition Against Sexual. (2023).
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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus
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Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.