Sexual abuse affects 100% of us. If it’s not you, then it’s someone you know. But how can we navigate the overwhelming secondary trauma attached to knowing someone we care for has suffered an immense amount of emotional and even physical pain at the hands of sexual abuse? How can we support our loved ones and walk alongside them on their healing journey?
Being an ally to a survivor of sexual abuse takes immense courage, empathy, and willingness to listen to the story and the needs of survivors. Use the following guidance to embrace the positive impact of being a trusted ally:
Use comforting and supportive verbal affirmations
The way you react to a survivor’s disclosure of sexual abuse can make the most impactful difference in their world. Use the following affirmations to support your loved one through their journey of recognizing the impact of sexual abuse, sharing their story, and finding freedom from the pain of the abuse:
“Thank you for sharing your story with me”
“I believe you”
“What do you need right now? I’m here to help you in any way you need”
“You are not defined by what happened to you”
“I’m here to listen”
“I love you”
Remember that sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault - and it isn’t your fault either
The first initial shock of knowing someone you love has been victimized through sexual abuse may lead you to ask how you missed the warning signs or how you allowed it to happen. Feelings of confusion, anger, frustration, betrayal, and brokenheartedness are common, and we must find a healthy way to manage those emotions so that we can overcome the impact and work our way towards becoming allies. Abuse is a calculated choice by which perpetrators manipulate and take advantage of someone’s vulnerabilities. So it’s of paramount importance to remind the survivor that it was not their fault, that what happened to them was a crime, and that they did not deserve the abuse.
Have a moment for yourself to take a deep breath, and remind yourself that it is not your fault either.
Empowerment is key
Sexual abuse can make a survivor feel like they no longer have any control over their life. As an ally, we can provide support for survivors by empowering them to know that they have the power to decide how to move forward every single day. By avoiding judgment, providing empathy and respecting the survivor’s decisions, you are giving them a safe space that also empowers them to know there is hope in shaping their own future.
Healing from sexual abuse is a lifelong journey, but it is not impossible. Many people have reached the restoration and freedom that comes with healing from sexual abuse with the help of allies. If you are a fellow survivor looking for allies, we encourage you to sign up for our Shelter healing group program or reach out to our in-house counselor as you begin to walk your own path towards a safe, healthy and happy future.