Supporting a survivor
If you were to ask me what to do to support me, this is what I would say:
First and foremost, listen to me with your heart and believe that what I am sharing with you is the truth. It is highly likely that the people in my group have already accused me of lying, exaggerating, or attention-seeking. It is highly likely that people have tried to defend the person who attacked me and blame me – as if it were my fault, as if I had provoked or deserved it. I need you to believe me. I need you to listen to me. Without interruption. Without asking me questions. Without judgement.
Tell yourself that if I’m confiding in you, it’s because I really need to talk about it and it’s not easy for me to open up on the topic. Respect my pace. It may be that I want to talk to you about it. Or it may be that I need to not think about.
If you’re not sure how to go about it, ask me! Asking me is a way to show me that you care about me and that you respect my limits and my choices. Maybe it’s hard for me to tell you what I need. At that moment, you could offer me some options and leave me free to choose what would be good for me. Know that what is good for me today will not necessarily work tomorrow.
I understand that it’s not always easy to understand me. I don’t even always understand me! There are a number of resources to help you to support me. I encourage you to take the time to find out, read a book, see a movie. I don’t always have the energy to help you understand. It really helps me when you do that. You can talk about it with other survivors or workers. They could surely coach you.
Become an ally in the struggle to end sexual violence. Report degrading, sexist or misogynistic comments. Seek to create equal relationships. Speak openly about women’s reality. Your openness and support will start to be recognized. You will bring comfort and hope to the women in your group, at times even without realizing it. You will lead the men to challenge the power they have acquired in a patriarchal society. What’s more, I will feel your commitment to me. I will be very proud of you and happy to have you in my life on the road to healing from the sexual assault or assaults I experienced.