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How do I support someone who has been sexually abused?

How do I support someone who has been sexually abused?

Anyone who has been sexually abused needs to be listened to and believed. They may benefit from support in finding out about the specialist services that are available for them.

First Steps

It can be very distressing if you think that a friend or family member has experienced sexual abuse. It may be tempting to ask lots of questions or encourage them to talk to you about what happened. This is not necessarily a good idea, particularly if they have never told anyone before. Reassure your friend or family member that, whatever has happened to them, you are there to support them.

What could your friend/family member be thinking and feeling?

People who have experienced sexual abuse may be feeling a range of complex, and sometimes conflicting, emotions. They may feel a sense of guilt or shame and they may feel confused by their thoughts and behaviour. Some people withdraw into themselves. Others misuse alcohol or drugs or show very strong emotional reactions.

Someone who has experienced sexual abuse who has never told anyone about it may be worried that they will not be believed and may find it difficult to talk about what has happened to them.

Accessing  Specialist Support

It is important for your friend/family member to decide whether to report what has happened to them to the police. There are agencies and specialist staff who can help people in this process and you could offer to help your friend or family member find out about the help that is available to them. Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs) work with victims of sexual abuse and help them to identify what their options are and decide what is best for them to do.

You can support your friend or family member by helping them to find out where their nearest ISVA is based. They may find it helpful for you to accompany them to appointments too. Even if your friend/family member decides that they don’t want to report what happened to them to the police there are counsellors who are trained to listen to people and help them to come to terms with what has happened. An ISVA will be able to help to find a suitable counsellor or a victim is able to self refer.

For help and advice on how to access specialist support contact the Wales Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.

The Long Term

It may take a long time for someone to seek support after they have been sexually abused. Having someone to be there for them, for the long term, is very helpful. Try to reassure your friend / family member that you will always be there to help them and that they are under no pressure to do anything they don’t want to.

Looking After Yourself

It is not easy to listen to someone you care about talk about their experience of sexual abuse. Supporting someone through this difficult time can take its toll on you as well. It is important that you consider your own feelings and reactions. It may help for you to talk about how this has made you feel and you should make sure that you have time to relax and unwind to take care of yourself too.

Call our free and confidential Live Fear Free Helpline:

0808 80 10 800

(Lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

 

About Live Fear Free

Live Fear Free is a Welsh Government website, providing information and advice for those suffering with violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

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