This is a sensitive subject and, if any of this information overwhelms you, please practice self-care. But, many of us do know loved ones who are survivors of sexual harassment or assault. We cannot turn our backs on them, especially when they have turned to us for help. The resources and tactics listed below hardly scratch the surface of this difficult conversation, but it will hopefully help you feel better equipped to help any survivors.
The following statistics were taken from
11.2% of all university students experience rape or sexual assault throughout their college careers. Male-identified individuals on college campuses are 78% more likely to be raped or assaulted than men not attending university. Students are at an increased risk during their first year of college. You never know what someone has been, or is going, through; so be sensitive at all times.
Listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t try to finish their sentences. Just listen.
Believe them. This is by far the easiest step. This survivor could be your friend, family member or your partner. But regardless of their relationship to you, trust them.They don’t need to be someone to you because they are someone. They don’t owe you anything to receive your respect.
Do not place any blame on them. This shouldn’t have to be said, but it doesn’t matter what they were wearing. It doesn’t matter if they said yes at first or if they simply didn’t say no. None of that matters. They were assaulted, harassed or they were raped. Those are facts. Another fact: it is never the survivor’s fault.
Do not make any decisions for them. If they ask you not to report, don’t. Whether or not they want to press charges is completely up to them. Some people just don’t want to relive their traumas and others just don’t have the means to go through the legal process.
Be aware of their triggers. If they express that a topic or word makes them uncomfortable, don’t use it around them. A few examples of words that may fit into this category are “rape”, “sexual assault”, “abuse”, “intimacy”, “sex”, or “victim”. The word may also be a proper name. If that name is a problem, simply do not say it around them.
Know your own triggers. No one knows your triggers better than yourself, and if you cannot be there for a survivor of sexual assault, help them in whatever way you can. It may seem counterintuitive to put yourself first when the conversation should really be about them. Be honest and try to direct them to other resources such as another friend or a healthcare professional if need be.
Here are resources for local Charlotte therapists:
Sanctuary Counseling Group
Not only do therapists like Brooke Terrell deal with trauma recovery in survivors, but these counselors are also specifically versed in helping LGBT+ patients as well. Also offering couple-therapy, these counselors are trained in self-esteem improvement and women’s issues.
Best of Me Counseling and Therapy
Dr. Chandra Lasley specializes in PTSD, anxiety, and depression. She uses goal-oriented therapy in order to help clients realize their ambitions.
A Mindful Awakening (A.M.A) Counseling Services
Psychologists like Ama Uwosuaa specialize in young adult therapy with a focus on behavioral and familial history. Uwosuaa, as a woman of color, realizes the importance of analyzing each client’s cultural background. She looks at every intersection that makes up the individual rather than fixating on one aspect of them as a whole.
P & G Clinical Services
This is a bilingual office, offering clients treatment in both English and Spanish. Dr. Loredana Pampinella works with children, adolescents, and adults. In her multilingual psychotherapy, Dr. Pampinella also offers aid to married couples, LGBT+ people, and as well as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) psychotherapy.
Here are resources for national survivor organizations:
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network)
Offering a 24/7 hotline for those who are in an unsafe situation or in need of help, RAINN has several programs built to help survivors with both mental and physical challenges. They also offer trainings on college campuses, high schools, and businesses working to prevent sexual assault or harrassment. Finally, they ensure that perperators of sexual assault or proeperly judged and subsequently punished.
CVAN (Cabarrus Victims Assistance Network)
This shelter exists to ensure the safety of battered women, young adults, or children. Their website contains a page with the following listed as forms of domestic violence, for those who may not have been taught that their situation is toxic or harmful: physical, emotional, financial, or sexual.
EROC (End Rape on Campus)
Their priority is aiding survivors while educating everyone. Much of their staff is well-versed in financial and federal laws; giving aid to student activists and conservative students alike.
Watch out for them. If they don’t like being alone at parties or if they’re going out with someone new, stay with them or text them regularly. Don’t let them feel alone. Don’t let them be alone.
Do not tell others. If you’re around people, don’t bring up their assault. Even if it is people they know, don't bring up their assault. Know that it is always a good rule of thumb to just not bring it up at all.
Do not single them out. If someone brings up assault or rape, do not look at them or point to them. This is especially true if it is in a classroom or lecture setting. Later, if you have privacy and feel it’s appropriate, you can ask them if they’re okay.
Even if you happen to be an expert, they don’t have to take your advice. Your opinion will always be just that: an opinion. They may welcome it or they may not. It is up to the survivor to accept your advice if they so choose.
Do not treat them any differently. Being conscious of their triggers is different from treating them as if they were made of glass. Continue to invite them to events, continue to talk to them about whatever it is that you talk about. They are still your friend and they may just want to get their life back to normal. Distract them or take them out for fun, give them something to look forward to.
Remember that survivors continue to survive every single day. Some days may be easier than others, but it is a pendulum. It is easy to get discouraged when you feel like you’re there for your loved one continuously, and sometimes they just don’t make the same effort. We never know someone’s internal struggle. If you need them, tell them. Open communication is the best way to know what someone needs.