Sexual abuse is horrific and, unfortunately, all too common in our country. No one deserves this type of abuse.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds, and every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. These are shocking and quite scary statistics. The odds are high that you or someone close to you has been abused. A time may come when a friend or family member trusts you and shares their experience. When this happens, here are some ideas for you to help your loved one heal from their abuse.
A person shows immense strength and courage when they make the decision to share their abuse experience. Doubts and fears flood the person, and they ask themselves questions like: “How will they react?”, “Will they think of me differently?”, and “Will they believe me?”.
If someone trusts you enough to open up about their trauma, actively listen to them. Make sure there is nothing fighting for your attention and focus solely on them. Stay engaged the entire time and let them tell the story without interruption. Meet their vulnerability with empathy and kindness. Wendy Maltz, author and sex and relationship therapist, suggests this list of possible appropriate responses:
- “Thank you for sharing.”
- “You are not to blame for what happened to you.”
- “You didn’t deserve what happened to you.”
- “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
- “You are not what was done to you.”
- “That was abuse, not healthy sexuality.”
- “I support you in your healing process.”
- “I respect you for addressing this.”
- “I love you.”
Do Not Doubt
People respond to trauma differently, and they may retell the story in multiple ways. Some may try to lighten the mood by laughing, some may cry, and some may tell the story like it happened to someone else. No matter how the story is told, believe them. Acknowledge them and tell your loved one you believe them. If doubt is expressed, it could hinder their desire to seek the professional help they need.
Keep Their Trust
When a loved one opens up and shares their experience of sexual abuse, they have placed a lot of trust in you. It is vital that you keep their trust. That experience is not yours to share; it is theirs. Do not break their trust by telling their story to someone else unless they give you explicit instructions to do so. Breaking their trust can be just as detrimental as doubting their story. Your loved one may avoid seeking the help they need to get through this traumatic experience if they feel betrayed.
Do your research in understanding abuse and how it affects others. RAINN and the CDC offer fantastic resources on the subject. Read through these resources, understand them, and be prepared if someone chooses to open up to you. Understand the proper ways to respond and the subsequent steps to help your loved one heal from this terrible abuse.
Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton is Here for You
At Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton, we know how difficult it is to come forward and pursue a case against another individual after sexual abuse. Our legal team also understands the importance of having compassionate, personalized attention on your side during this difficult time. We can help hold those who hurt you accountable for their actions.
We have offices in West Jordan and Utah County, Utah. Contact us today.