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Love should never hurt- ever! 04-26-17

 

Secondary survivors of sexual assault- friends, relatives or partners of a survivor.

The crime of rape is not about sex, but about power, control and humiliation. It is a crime- in Alabama it is a felony. For the victim/survivor, it is often a pain from which they believe they will never heal. However, they can and do heal. For friends, family and intimate partners it can also be a difficult struggle as they recover from the trauma of knowing about the crime.

Learning that someone you care about has been sexually assaulted may leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless. After the assault, it takes time for the victim/survivor and their friends, relatives or partners to learn how to respond and to help them heal. For the victim/survivor, positive support is a critical part of the healing process and being believed and having sympathetic responses can make a huge difference!

You may have difficulty knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to begin to help the one you love. The most important thing is to be non-judgmental and to allow them to use you as a sounding board or a shoulder to lean on. They can respond in a variety of different ways from hysterical sobbing to minimal responses at all.

Secondary survivors are often affected in similar ways to victim/survivors as they begin to learn more about the crime. I have seen them become extremely angry- almost out of control, shocked, embarrassed, plagued with guilt, and a few so upset they wanted to get even by committing violence against the perpetrator. That’s when they need extra help themselves so they are healthy supporters of the victim/survivor.

If the perpetrator is a family member, the family members who are significant in the perpetrator’s life will likely be profoundly affected by the sexual violence their family member has perpetrated towards another. This is a ripple effect- the family members experience similar trauma symptoms to the victim/survivor. Following the sexual assault of a family member or loved one, family and friends often experience emotional distress and physical and psychological symptoms that can disrupt their life and family bonds. Sometimes, family members become divided in their loyalties- believers of the victims/survivors vs. believers of the perpetrators. They may engage in self-blame or direct blame towards others in the family which can lead to additional problems and even more violence.

The bottom line of this is that everyone should and can work together to support and help the victim heal from his or her assault. Although it’s not easy process, it can be done with the caring and unconditional support of friends, family and partners. If the secondary victim/survivors are struggling, there is hope. Crisis Services of North Alabama responds to victims and families who are in need of help and support.

If you or someone you know is carrying a heavy burden of domestic or sexual violence, please contact Crisis Services- 256.574.5826. We’re here to help. Our services are free and confidential.

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