As we approach the end of April, we reflect back on an important month of awareness — Sexual Assault Awareness Month. With the #MeToo movement still garnering great support and furthering the mission of empowering countless survivors of sexual harassment, The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center shares tips on supporting those who experienced sexual harassment and violence.
Over the last few months, sexual violence has been elevated to the national conversation in ways we have never seen before. The #MeToo movement has empowered countless survivors of sexual harassment and abuse to speak their truth and share their experiences, even if perhaps they had never dared before.
We all have a role to play in supporting survivors of sexual violence. And as many survivors are coming forward for the first time, there are ways you can show your support if someone close to you discloses that they, too, are a survivor.
When someone you care about confides in you that they experienced rape or sexual abuse, it can be a challenging conversation. You may feel that you want to help them, but you might not be sure how or know what to say.
Below are three ways to support a friend or family member who is a survivor of rape or sexual abuse.
1) Simply listen, without judgment or expectations.
Listen with the intention of listening and giving your loved one space to share what they are ready to share with you that moment. What your loved one may need now more than ever is someone to simply listen and validate what they’re experiencing.
- “I believe you.”
- “You are not alone.”
- “This doesn’t change how I think of you.”
2) Remind them it wasn’t their fault.
Many survivors can place the blame on themselves. Remind them that they did nothing wrong and that the perpetrator is to blame. It is never the survivor’s fault this happened to them.
- “It’s not your fault.”
- “Nobody deserves this.”
- “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
3) Encourage your loved one to seek help that is right for them; when, and if it is right for them.
Everyone reacts to trauma in their own way. Your loved one may want to seek help, or they may not. Your loved one had a traumatic experience that makes them feel powerless. You can help them understand the options they have and support the decision they make as the right thing for them at that moment.
- “Are you open to seeking medical attention?”
- “Have you thought about learning about your legal options?”
- “Have you thought about reaching out to a hotline or a therapist for help thinking through your options?”
How to Access Help
Text or call Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s 24/7 Crisis & Support Hotline at (216) 619-6192 or chat online at clevelandrapecrisis.org/chat for support and information. Learn more or request an appointment at clevelandrapecrisis.org. You can also call United Way 2-1-1 Help Center for support by simply dialing 2-1-1.
Learn more at clevelandrapecrisis.org/saam.