For more information, or to speak to a counselor, please contact Linda Rutherford at 508-852-7600 x113 or LRutherford@pathwaysforchange.help
Anyone who has been a victim of any form of sexual violence, needs compassion, sensitivity, and caring. It is normal to want to help friends and family members who have been hurt, but sometimes they don’t know what to say or do. Unless you have experienced sexual violence, you may not be able to truly understand a Survivors’ feelings. It is important to remember that not all Survivors react or feel the same.
For victims to become survivors, they need empathy and understanding which starts with a listening ear. Asking a loved one or friend why they did a certain thing, wore a certain item of clothing or went to a certain place can be judgemental questions. Remember, no one deserves or asks to be sexually assaulted. Here are some ways you can help:
- First, Start by Believing!
- Take a deep breath
- KNOW: The Survivor went to you to share what happened to them because they trust you
- Remain calm. You might feel shock or rage (which is normal), but expressing these emotions to the Survivor may cause them more trauma. Also fear can sometimes sound like judgment or anger, so beware of how your fear might “sound” to the the person you are supporting
- Encourage medical attention. Care is important because there may be internal injuries that are not noticeable, or the Survivor may have been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, a forensic exam can help provide evidence should the victim decide to prosecute. Know that if the Survivors are planning (or considering) to go to the Emergency Room, call Pathways hotlines 24/7/365, Voice 800-870-5905 or for American Sign Language Video Phone 508-502-7681, and an Advocate can talk to the Survivor or you about options as well as meet you at the hospital.
- Give the victim control. Remember that all control has been stripped from the Survivor during the assault. Allow the Survivor to make their OWN decisions about what steps to take next. Don’t give them “advice” or tell them what they “should” or “shouldn’t” do.
- Maintain their privacy. Let the Survivor decide who will know about the assault (it’s not your story to tell).
- Let the Survivor express their feelings. Listen without adding your opinions. If the Survivor’s wishes to remain silent, do not or force a discussion. Say you will be there to listen when they are ready to share. Also recommend calling the Pathways 24/7/365 Hotlines for more info and to learn about options. (Voice 800-870-5905 or for American Sign Language Video Phone 508-502-7681)
- Believe the Survivor. Make it clear to the Survivor that you believe them and that it happened and that it was NOT their fault. The abuser is 100% responsible for sexually violating them.
- Encourage Seeking Support. Give the Survivor the Pathways Hotline number – Voice 800-870-5905 or for American Sign Language Video Phone 508-502-7681, but let the decision to call, be the Survivor’s.
- Seek help for yourself. Don’t ignore your own feelings, even though you may not be able to share all of them with the Survivor right now. Pathways is there to support you too, if you ever need to talk. Just call one of our Hotline numbers – for Voice 800-870-5905 or for American Sign Language Video Phone 508-502-7681
Remember, You are likely to experience some strong reactions when you learn of a friend’s or loved one’s assault. Reactions or feelings of anger, rage, shock, revenge, desire to “fix it,” to move on, feelings of helplessness, or rationalization that “it wasn’t that bad” are common, are normal, but not helpful to share with the Survivor you are supporting. Which is why we are here for Survivors and those who care for them. Because when someone we love hurts, we hurt.
For crisis support day or night, call the 24 hour voice hotline at 1-800-870-5905 or for American Sign Language, call the 24 hour Video Phone hotline at 508-502-7681 Or for more information, contact the office (M-F, 9AM-5PM) at 508-852-7600 and ask to speak to a counselor.