Sexual Violence Prevention: Victim Support

For the past six weeks, I have been participating in a program at ASU aimed at educating sorority women about sexual violence prevention. The information I’ve learned and the discussions I’ve had with the girls in my session have been extremely beneficial to me personally, and I think it is important to share them with a wider audience which is why I have decided to create a series for Her Campus ASU outlining what I learned. We don’t talk about these issues enough and it is time to educate ourselves and break the stigma surrounding sexual violence!

(Photo Credit: Pinterest)

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a situation in the past or you will in the future where a friend shares that he/she has experienced sexual assault, rape, or harassment. Maybe you have experienced these yourself. Unfortunately, this situation is all too real and unbelievably common for us college girls. Statistics even show that in the US, there are 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assaults on average each year and 16-19 is ,“The age range that women are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault,” (Rainn.org). Although it is often extremely traumatic to experience, victims of sexual violence are definitely not alone or at fault and don’t deserve to feel like they are.

Important Tips for Supporting Someone who has Experienced Sexual Violence

  1. Start by believing

  2. Say, “This was not your fault.”

  3. Foster a safe place

  4. Listen without controlling

  5. Recognize that healing takes time and everyone responds differently to trauma

  6. Take care of yourself

The Do’s and Don’ts of Victim Support

DO say, “I believe you.” Even if the story is jumbled and difficult to make sense of, believe the survivor is telling you the truth.

DO thank the survivor for being brave enough to share something so personal with you.

DO let the survivor decide who will know about the assault. It is not your place to tell people.

DO remain calm. It is common for you to feel shocked or outraged, but expressing these emotions to the survivor may cause more stress or trauma.

DO allow the survivor to express any feelings they have. Allow the survivor to cry, scream, or stay silent if they need to. Remember these emotions are not directed at you, but rather the situation.

DO give the survivor control in any way you can. Empower him/her to make decisions about what steps to take next.

DO practice active listening.

 

DON’T confront the perpetrator or support any suggestions for revenge.

DON’T try to be an investigator and find out exactly what happened or push them to divulge details.

DON’T tell the survivor that he/she is okay or everything is alright.

DON’T question the truth of what the survivor is telling you or tell them you think they could be hiding something because they didn’t come to you sooner.

DON’T ask about the physically intimate aspects of the assault.

DON’T hug, hold, or touch the survivor. It is best to ask for permission, even if they’re a close friend. It’s easy to ask, "Can I give you a hug?” in order to give him/her more control.

DON’T ask the survivor to clarify whether or not it was assault. If they share that they are unsure, don’t find out whether it was or not.

DON’T immediately share your own experience if you have experienced something traumatic yourself or the lessons you’ve learned from it. It is best to listen and not make it about yourself. This can also undermine the trauma they’ve experienced or seem like you are comparing the two experiences.

Tips for Active Listening

DOs

  • Listen more than you talk
  • Let the speaker finish before you respond
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Remain attentive to what’s being said
  • Be aware of your own biases
  • Manage your own emotions
  • Be attentive to ideas and problem-solving opportunities
  • Give verbal and nonverbal messages that you are listening
  • Listen for both feelings and content

DON’Ts

  • Dominate the conversation
  • Interrupt
  • Finish the speaker’s sentences
  • Jump to conclusions
  • Respond with blaming or accusatory language
  • Become argumentative
  • Demonstrate impatience or multitask
  • Listen with biases or shut out new ideas

(Boston University, Office of the Ombuds)

I hope you find these techniques helpful and use them if you have the opportunity to. It is especially important as college women, many of us living on our own for the first time, to find ways to support each other.

Look out for the rest of my series in the weeks to come!

If you are interested in learning more about sexual violence prevention at ASU, you can take part in the program I took part in. It is offered every semester for sorority women and there is also one coming Fall 2018 for fraternity men.