How You Can Help A Survivor Of Sexual Assault Start To Heal
News anchors provide minute-long coverage of cases, films portray fictional scenes, colleges state their opposition. But what does anybody really know about sexual assault?
Despite any knowledge (or the lack thereof) one has on sexual assault, everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter.
Some believe that, in many cases, women and men are “asking for it” based off of their appearances or prior actions. Others believe that, in no case whatsoever, is it a someone’s fault, as no means no.
Opinions obviously vary, but regardless of what one’s opinion on the matter may be, there is one thing that remains constant: the repercussions that take a toll on the victims.
Any coverage of cases or any depiction of assault in the media solely focuses on whether the perpetrator is innocent or guilty, and while that is an important component of any case, it is not the sole component. Usually, it’s not even the most pressing issue.
All people focus on is what they can see — the bruises, the DNA evidence, and of course, the perpetrator. But, for those who are victims of sexual assault, the worst part is not the physical scars, but the emotional and mental ones.
While others count the number of times a victim was assaulted, a victim lies awake at night counting the number of reasons why staying in bed is the safest place to be.
While others observe the time and place the assault occurred, a victim observes the people who surround him or her, looking for signs of another perpetrator.
And while others eventually move on and forget about the events that occurred, a victim sees the assault over and over again in his or her nightmares, sometimes for years.
Sexual assault may only happen once, but its affects last a lifetime. For some victims, the event that transpired may be harnessed into a strength they never knew was possible beforehand.
But for others, the effects are too much to bear. And it feels as though they are in a perpetual hell.
Those who are stuck in this hell, whether it is for weeks, months or even years, are in a state of mind that most people cannot understand. Not because they don’t want to, but because, unless one has experienced something similar, they just don’t have the knowledge of the situation to fully comprehend all the mental and emotional tolls taken.
Any assault victim, whether it is a young child, teenager or an adult, does not want to constantly hear from people that the situation will get better.
They want to know that, sometimes, it’s OK to be weak — that there will be times of defeat where they will fall on the floor with anxiety and lose hope.
They want the truth of what happened to them to be recognized because without the truth, it feels as though their mentality and emotional state doesn’t matter to those around them.
For those who have a loved one who is a victim of sexual assault, do not constantly tell them that everything will be OK. Instead, lend an ear, a shoulder and a hand.
Be there, not as someone who doesn’t know what to say, but rather someone who knows how to listen and someone who can implement little actions and aids that will help them feel better in the moment.
One of the worst things about being a victim is that, at the time of the assault, their voice was not acknowledged.
The victim’s voice was silenced, and reinforcing that “everything will be OK” makes it feel as though one’s mental and emotional state must continue to remain silent, not to feel better in the long run, but to appease those around them.
Sexual assault is not just a temporary crime. It is one that leaves a permanent scar on the souls of its survivors. Rather than talking about the perpetrator and the crime, talk about the survivor.
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