When someone has become a victim of sexual assault, the traumatic experience not only deeply affects the victim, but the aftermath of the victimization can also traumatize the victim’s friends, family members, and loved ones. An individual trying to comfort a sexual assault victim may find it difficult to know how to react to the fragile situation and may have trouble finding the right things to say, or how to offer the best coping advice. While each victim may have their own way of overcoming the tragic event, having the proper support structure around them to cope in a healthy manner is extremely beneficial in handling the difficult experience.

Anyone Can Be a Victim

When helping a victim cope with sexual assault, it is important to remember that every gender identity can be vulnerable to sexual abuse. While our societal expectation is that women are typically targeted, this serious crime does not discriminate. In fact, victims of sexual assault can range in characteristics such as age, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Therefore, if a victim confides in you about their experience with sexual assault, it’s important be understanding of what they have just gone through and not discredit the trauma they are experiencing because of their identity. When hearing their story, remember that anyone can be a victim of this painful experience.

Be There and Listen

As much as someone may want to fully comprehend what a victim has been through when it comes to sexual abuse, there is nothing to be gained from analyzing the motives of the attacker or interrogating the victim about the circumstances. Let an appointed lawyer or investigator handle this type of questioning in a professional manner. Consequently, if and when someone wants to open up about their sexual assault, let them do so without an agenda of your own. Stay present in the moment, encourage them, and assure them that nothing they did was their fault or encouraged this behavior. Ask questions in a sensitive manner and don’t press upon subjects that the victim seems uncomfortable answering. Furthermore, when comforting a victim of sexual assault, respect their account of the circumstances, understand that they may not want to share every detail, and don’t make any assumptions about the trauma they have been through. Ultimately, it is important to be an open ear for the victim and assure them that you are solely there to console them in this time of need.

Avoid Projection and Meddling

Those who have experienced an episode or episodes of sexual assault and abuse often feel that the control they once had over their own body and life has been tragically stripped away from them. With that in mind, remember to allow the victim to heal and regain control of their life at their own pace. Even if you have dealt with a similar situation and feel you can relate to the victim, remember that everyone heals and copes in different ways. Therefore, try not to project your healing process onto the victim and instead just act as a comfort source of understanding and safety for the victim.

Patience is Key

Although the crime of rape is dealt with very seriously in our nation, the culture and stigmas surrounding rape still present many obstacles for victims of sexual assault to get past. With the stigma of being victimized by such an ugly act, a victim may not want to divulge any information of the experience. However, with time and understanding, it is ok to lightly encourage the victim to seek help from law enforcement, a lawyer, or a therapist. There are also an array of options for a victim to take part in order to properly heal from the trauma. These options range from visiting the local emergency room to conduct a rape kit for evidence to taking part in a local support group. In the end however, remember to allow the victim to seek out these resources on their own time and when they are ready. Patients is key when helping a victim of sexual abuse recover.

What if the Victim Wants to Press Charges?

In a case when a victim wants to press charges against their assailant, anything that may contain DNA from the perpetrator should be collected and given to the proper law enforcement agency. It is also beneficial to find a law firm with a good history of representing those who have been sexually assaulted. If you or someone you love has been the victim of sexual assault, the lawyers of Alexander Shunnarah are committed to helping our clients get the justice and closure they deserve. When the victim is ready to pursue legal action, contact our trusted team to find the right lawyer for you.