You may be the first person a survivor talks to. While you might want to help, you may not know what to do. If someone you know has been assaulted here are some things to think about:
- Listen. Listen with empathy and respect. Thank her or him for trusting you with their story. Believe and validate the survivor. About 40% of victims tell no one about their assault. If a friend trusts you enough to confide, offer reassurance and let them know that he or she is not alone
- Offer Support. Accept how they are in the moment. Survivors can demonstrate a range of emotional responses from detachment to severe emotions. This is a normal response to trauma.
- Respect Privacy. Keep the story in confidence unless given permission to share it
- Refer. Western offers counselling clinics, residence staff, student support services, Rehabilitation Services.
- Educate Yourself. Learn about sexual assault and why it happens. Think about your attitudes and challenge myths. Empower others to learn that they have the right to say no - and that no means no - whatever the situation.
Triggers and Flashbacks
Survivors can be triggered by sights, sounds, touch, smells or tastes.
A trigger is anything that sets off a flashback. Flashbacks can also be triggered by the time of year an assault took place, stress and fatigue, and many other factors.
Flashbacks are memories of past traumatic experiences. They can take the form of pictures, sounds, smells, bodily sensations, feelings or numbness.
While many people think of flashbacks as visual memories, they can also consist of intense feelings of panic, of being trapped or feeling claustrophobic or powerless.
These intense feelings and bodily sensations are not related to the reality of the present and can often seem to come from nowhere.
Survivors, and their friends, may begin to think that she or he is going crazy because she or he seems out of control, panicked or scared. These are normal responses to trauma.
Help your friend to seek professional help on campus or in the community. There are people who can help.