To learn tips for family support
SUPPORT, ENCOURAGE & EMPOWER
BECOME A KEEPER TODAY
KEEPERs are needed to keep our communities safe. KEEPERs are here to change the social norms that accept power sexual abuse in adults as a normal behavior. The goals of a KEEPER is to no longer ignore unhealthy situations by becoming an active bystanders and stepping up to address the issue of power sexual abuse in adults. This is a huge problem that not only effects the victim, but it also effects the victim’s family and friends. Sexual abuse has a ripple affeect on our communities as well and victims and thier familes. A KEEPER is someone that makes a commitment to be vigilant in their community to prevent any suspected occurrences sexual abuse. Anyone can make a difference in their community by following these standards below.
First a KEEPER must learn warning signs of abusers and victims of abuse. Then, learn proactive leading tools that are used to intervene safely to get a victim away safely. Next, a KEEPER takes responsibility of being aware of any situation that someone has been abused. A KEEPER must be equipped to offer support and encouragement to victims of abuse. Lastly, a KEEPER must learn how to communicate with victims of abuse to become a healthy support system for them in their recovery and healing process. A KEEPER offers their support by providing positive uplifting communication that helps to empower victims past their abusive experience.
The steps of becoming a KEEPER can be summed up as learning, intervening, and supporting by encouraging and empowering victims. Anyone can become a KEEPER, by learning signs of abuse, being proactive, supporting victims of sexual assault, speaking up and intervening when safe. Together we can show the world that sexual assault will no longer be tolerated.
This page of the website is dedicated to survivor’s friends and family. Sometimes it is so confusing to know what to say and how to respond when someone you love or care about has been abused. Scroll down, to learn skill of communications with victims of abuse and how to support them. To learn how to Protect Your Friend, How to Help a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted, and How to Help a Partner Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted read below.
When a loved one has such a traumatic experience it is impossible for their experience not to effect you. While becoming a support for a victim of sexual assault you can experience certain feelings that you may need help with, to learn how to Take Care of Yourself while helping click this link.
Protecting Your Friends
You have a crucial role to play in keeping your friends safe. No matter what the setting, if you see something that doesn’t feel quite right or see someone who might be in trouble, there are some simple things you can do to help out a friend.
Distract. If you see a friend in a situation that doesn’t feel quite right, create a distraction to get your friend to safety. This can be as simple as joining or redirecting the conversation: suggest to your friend that you leave the party, or ask them to walk you home. Try asking questions like: “Do you want to head to the bathroom with me?” or “Do you want to head to another party – or grab pizza?”
Step in. If you see someone who looks uncomfortable or is at risk, step in. If you feel safe, find a way to de-escalate the situation and separate all parties involved. Don’t be shy about directly asking the person if they need help or if they feel uncomfortable.
Enlist others. You don’t have to go it alone. Call in friends or other people in the area as reinforcements to help defuse a dangerous situation and get the at-risk person home safely. There is safety in numbers.
Keep an eye out. Use your eyes and ears to observe your surroundings. If you see someone who has had too much to drink or could be vulnerable, try to get them to a safe place. Enlist friends to help you. Even if you weren’t around when the assault occurred, you can still support a friend in the aftermath.
How to Help a Friend or Family Member who has been Sexually Assaulted
When a relative or friend discloses to you that she's been sexually assaulted, your reactions can become a very important part of her healing process. The following can be helpful to her:
Be calm. Don't over-react. This may simply add to her stress level.
Believe her/him. It's not your role to question whether a sexual assault has occurred. Don't minimize or dismiss what's happened, just validate her feelings. This is a life-changing experience regardless of how long ago it happened. She's choosing to tell you now because she's hoping for your belief and support.
Recognize her/him strength. It took courage and trust for her to share her experience with you. Say so.
Reassure her/him. Tell her that you believe in her ability to heal and recover from the experience. Express clearly that your feelings of love and friendship for her haven't changed.
Listen to her/him. It's important to let her know she can talk to you whenever she's ready, but don't push her to do so. At some point during her recovery process, she may come to you for support. Whenever that happens, just listen. Don't interrupt or inject your own feelings. Your caring attention will be very valuable.
Ask before you touch. Don't assume that physical contact, even in the form of a gentle touch or hug, will be comforting. Give her all the space she needs, and try your best not to take her reactions personally. You can quietly signal your openness to physical contact by sitting with an open posture, and it's OK to ask if she'd like a hug.
Talk to her without blame or judgment. No one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted. It doesn't matter whether she was drunk or high, how she was behaving or even if she's involved in a relationship with the offender. Don't analyze her experience, and don't criticize her for choices she's made or for being unable to prevent the assault. Someone else made a conscious choice to victimize her, and that person is solely responsible. SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NEVER, EVER THE SURVIVOR'S FAULT.
Ignore the timeline. If her experience isn't recent, don't ask why she didn't say anything about it sooner. Sexual abuse is very hard for children and adults to talk about, or she may have tried to tell someone earlier but not been believed. Regardless of her age at the time of the sexual assault or abuse, she coped with the experience the best way she could. There is no one "right" way for anyone to respond during or after being attacked.
Help her explore options. Encourage her to make her own decisions about what happens now, and respect her choices. Supporters of survivors of sexual assault often want them to report to the police -- this is her choice. She needs to regain a feeling of control over her life, so don't take charge of the situation or pressure her to do what you think she should. She needs the freedom to choose a path to recovery that she's most comfortable with, even if you would do things differently.
Stay close. If the assault is very recent, offer to accompany her wherever she needs to go (for medical attention, to report to police or campus security, etc.). Ensure her immediate safety.
Try to keep her focused on her own recovery. She needs to be free of the responsibility for looking after other people.
Keep your word. Don't promise anything you can't follow through on.
Be as patient as possible. An immediate recovery isn't likely to happen, and there are often lasting effects from sexual assault. Your loved one will need your support in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Keep her/his trust. Don't tell anyone else about the assault without asking her first. You've been trusted to hear about this extremely personal experience, and you must respect that trust.
Take care of yourself, too. The impact of sexual assault extends far beyond the survivor. You'll likely have strong feelings about what's happened to your loved one, and it's important to deal with these. Suppressing your own emotions may only make you less capable of helping someone you care about.
If your loved one is struggling with the impact of the assault, she/he can obtain information, support and counselling from a sexual assault service to help her /him move forward in thier healing process. Of course, this choice needs to be made freely by her/him, when she's ready.
As a supporter of a woman who has been sexually assaulted, you'll have your own difficult feelings and responses to deal with. Obtaining information, support or counselling may also be helpful to you as you sort through what has happened to your loved one.
How to Support Your Partner Following a Sexual Assault
Be a rock. Your partner needs someone solid and dependable to hang onto, both emotionally and physically. Reassure her/him that your feelings of love haven't changed. Tell her/him that you believe in their ability to heal and recover fully from the experience.
Listen well. Encourage your partner to express the confusing spectrum of emotions they may be experiencing, while giving them the freedom to determine when and how to do this. When your partner opens up to you, just listen. Don't interrupt or inject your own feelings, and don't suggest what they should be feeling. Expect both positive and negative emotions. If the perpetrator was someone your partner knows well (such as a family member), she/he may have mixed feelings about what's happened.
Let your partner know you believe them. One of your partner's biggest fears may be that you won't believe their story; it's possible that she/he will only disclose details they feel you can be trusted to hear. Through calm, accepting and encouraging responses, you'll demonstrate that you're prepared to take what you're told as the truth. If you minimize, deny or mistrust her/his experience, your partner's fears will be strengthened or confirmed, and it's likely that they will retreat into silence. DO NOT push for details, especially sexual ones.
Share your own feelings, but do it carefully. It's OK for you to share your own feelings of grief, sadness, even anger. It may even be helpful for your partner to hear your expressions of outrage or pain about their terrible experience. But overdoing this can cause your partner to feel that they need to support you, to feel guilty about causing you pain, or to shield you by holding back their own emotions. If this starts to happen, you should seek alternate support for yourself. You can obtain information, support or counseling from AASAS member agencies. Your partner needs to focus on self-healing and regaining a sense of control over their life.
Tell your partner that this was not their fault. Talk to your partner without judgment or analyzing their experience. Don't criticize the choices they made, or for being unable to prevent the assault. Reassure your partner that whatever she/he may have done (or not done) at the time, it was the right choice that enabled her/him to survive. By always putting TOTAL responsibility on the offender, you will help your partner reduce feelings of guilt, denial and self-blame. SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NEVER, EVER THE SURVIVOR'S FAULT.
Don't make decisions for your partner. It's extremely important that your partner regain a sense of control in their life and confidence in their own judgment. Attempts to protect your partner by discouraging their involvement in old or new friendships, activities, or interests will not support their healing. The experience of sexual assault or abuse may lead to your partner making changes that affect her/his relationships, including the one they have with you. If you find it difficult to support the choices your partner is making, it may be beneficial for you to seek support for yourself at this time.
Validate the impacts of her experience. Regardless of the specific impacts of the assault or abuse, or the length of time since the experience, your partner's life has been changed. If your partner's experience isn't recent and they're just telling you now, what's important is that they trust you enough now to share this. Not telling you sooner is simply not important.
If your partner was a child when the abuse happened, remember that sexual abuse is very hard for a child to talk about. Often, children try to tell but are not believed, understood or supported -- and often they're threatened or frightened into silence. Regardless of your partner's age at the time of their abuse or assault, they coped with their experience the best way they could.
As your partner moves forward in their healing, they may recognize impacts from the abuse in their present day life. These are connections only the survivor can make, and only that person can sort out whether and how they should address these impacts.
Ask before you touch. Even if you share a longstanding physical relationship, don't automatically assume that physical contact, even in the form of a gentle touch or hug, will be comforting to your partner. At first, particularly if the assault was recent or if your partner has just disclosed to you, unwanted touch may remind your partner of the assault/abuse.
It's up to your partner to decide whether hugging or holding will be comforting or stressful, so give your them all the space they need, and try your best not to take her/his reactions personally. You can quietly signal your openness to physical contact by sitting with an open posture and an upturned palm.
Respond to discomfort about sexual intimacy with love and patience. In order to heal, your partner may need to stop engaging in sexual activity until she/he feels comfortable with it. It's important that you acknowledge this possibility to your partner, and that you tell them that this is OK. Talking openly about this is key to your partner's healing and to the health of your relationship. Talking may make your partner feel safer and help both of you to remain close emotionally. Be extremely patient, and be open to other ways of sharing closeness while your partner is recovering.
Accept that you won't be able to "fix" it. No matter how much you care and how hard you try, you can't remove your partner's pain or speed up their healing journey. Sometimes, the hardest -- but best -- thing to do may be to do nothing at all. Your most valuable support may simply to be a loving, understanding and patient partner while she/he is recovering.
Know your own limits. No matter how much you love and want to support your partner, your own emotional resources aren't limitless. If you try to give too much, you may find yourself resenting or withdrawing from them when your partner needs you most. No one person can give any person all the support they needs. Encourage your partner to spend time with others who also care about her and who support her healing process.
You may also want to speak to a trusted, supportive person who can help you "download" your own stress and express your own feelings about what's happened. Make sure to get your partner's permission before talking about the assault with someone else. You can get more information, support or counselling from AASAS members across the province.
Take care of yourself, too. Don't completely immerse yourself in supporting or worrying about your partner. No matter how much you love and care about them, you also need to consciously set aside time for your own needs. Find diversions that will lighten your emotional load and recharge your ability to give support. Get engrossed in your favourite sport or hobby, go for a walk, see a movie, read a book. Despite this challenging time for your partner and your relationship, you have a right to enjoy yourself and your life.
Self-Care for Friends and Family Members
When someone that you care about tells you that they have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, it can be difficult. You may have a range of reactions that could include…
You may be very surprised to hear what has happened.
You might have difficulty figuring out how to respond.
You might feel angry at the perpetrator for hurting your loved one.
You might also feel angry at your loved one for not telling you sooner or for telling you something that is hard for you to hear.
This can be especially true if the assault was committed by someone that you know. An example of this would be sexual assault that is committed by a family member (incest).
You might feel sad for your loved one, for his or her family, or for what this assault may change about both of your lives.
You might feel anxiety about responding the “right” way to your loved one.
You might feel anxiety about how this will impact your relationship.
Depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s assault, you might be concerned that something similar could happen to you.
… almost anything is normal.
Everyone has a different reaction when they find out that someone they care for has been sexually assaulted.
There is no “wrong” way to feel. What is important is that you show the victim that you care and that you can help support them.
Here is a list of ways that you can support your loved one as they cope with the assault.
It’s also very important for you to take care of yourself! Even though you were not the victim of the assault, hearing your loved one’s story and helping to support them can impact you as well.
Helping someone who has experienced a sexual assault can change the way that you see the world.
Your belief in your personal safety might be shaken, especially if your loved on was assaulted somewhere that you have to visit.
Some family and friends of survivors may experience more conflict in their relationships, whether those are intimate partner relationships, friendships or family relationships.
This can be especially true if the person who committed the assault is a mutual acquaintance or a relative.
You might find that you’re more easily irritated or have difficulty tolerating frustration.
You could even experience nightmares about their experience.
You might begin to feel distant and begin avoiding people and activities that you usually find pleasurable, especially if your loved one was assaulted in one of theses places.
Here are some ways to cope with these feelings.
Make sure that you are involved in activities that don’t revolve around your loved one’s experience. It can be easy to get caught up in what is happening to them.
Get involved in a sport or hobby that you love!! Find other people who are doing the same thing!
Knowing that people are counting on you to show up can help motivate you.
If you have a spouse or partner, make a date night and stick with it.
Turn off your cell phones (within reason. If the babysitter needs to be able to find you, consider leaving him/her the number of the restaurant so that you can turn off your ringer!)
Treat leisure appointments as seriously as business appointments. If you have plans to do something for fun, mark it on your calendar!
If you find that you are getting too involved with what is happening to your loved one, set limits!
Set aside time to do what they need you to do and when that time is up, move on to other activities
It’s very important for you to maintain your emotional health! You cannot help your loved one if you are in crisis yourself.
Work to manage your feelings
Keep a journal. It may be helpful to write down some of the feelings that you are experiencing.
Practice meditation or relaxation exercises. This may help maintain your emotional balance. For example:
Sit or stand comfortably, with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Place one hand over your belly button. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and let your stomach expand as you inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth, sighing as you breathe out. Concentrate on relaxing your stomach muscles as you breathe in. When you are doing this exercise correctly, you will feel your stomach rise and fall about an inch as you breathe in and out. Try to keep the rest of your body relaxed—your shoulders should not rise and fall as you breathe! Slowly count to 4 as you inhale and to 4 again as you exhale. At the end of the exhalation, take another deep breath. After 3-4 cycles of breathing you should begin to feel the calming effects.
You might also consider talking to a counselor.
This could mean seeing a psychologist, a clinical social worker, or therapist.
Local rape crisis centers often provide counseling or can connect you with a provider. Call (800) 656-HOPE or go to http://centers.rainn.org/ to find a center near you.
As you work to support your loved on, make sure that you take care of yourself as well. It can be easy to get caught up in their needs and to forget about your own. Remember that you cannot help them unless you are taking care of yourself!
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