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How Can You Help Her?

A good reaction and attitude when learning about someone’s sexual assault is crucial. It will play an important role in decreasing the consequences that she might experience. Here are twelve actions and attitudes that can be really beneficial :

  1. Believe the person
    You do not have to prove that there was aggression. Avoid comments that cast doubt on her word or her integrity.
  2. Listen without judging
    Privilege active listening and avoid suggestive questions.
  3. Respect her rhythm, her experience, her words
    Respect the person’s experience and let her speak to you in her own words and reveal what she can.
    Do not ask her questions about the assault; the victim is more important than the events.
  4. Receive without amplyfying or minimizing
    People do not all react the same way, but sexual assault always affects their privacy and their psychological integrity. It is therefore important not to minimize, dramatize or compare what they are experiencing.
  5. Ensure confidentiality
    Assure her of your discretion and confidentiality, unless the assaults persist or her safety is compromised (suicidal thoughts, she still lives aggressions).
  6. Avoid too strong reactions
    Be careful not to express the revolt or anger you feel about the situation in front of the victim. She could refrain from talking or feel abnormal about not feeling angry.
  7. Validate your emotions and feelings
    Let her cry, scream, laugh and promote the expression of her feelings, including anger and shame. Make contact in terms of feelings, not facts.
  8. Don’t make her feeling guilty: it is never the fault of the victim
    Put the blame on the attacker. Any remark may appear as an accusation and make the victim feel more guilty, thus compromising her recovery.
  9. Guarantee the safety of the victim
    Check if the person is in danger, has suicidal thoughts and needs professional help.
  10. Offer support, ensure a presence, be available
    Ensure your availability whitin your limits and check if the person has a support network (family, friends).
  11. Help her identify her needs, promote her autonomy
    To let the person make her own choices is to help her regain power over her life. Encourage the person and build on her strength.
  12. Orient to resources
    Encourage the person to seek support: refer is help.
    Offer, if you can, a “tangible help”: accompany her to receive medical help, give her information.

    Reference: Regroupement québécois des CALACS. (2016). Résumé des 12 attitudes aidantes. Repéré à http://www.rqcalacs.qc.ca/projets/31-resume-des-12-attitudes-aidantes.