Understanding the physical, psychological, and emotional impact of sexual assault on a survivor is essential to their healing process. Reactions to sexual assault can include:
- Physical and Psychological:
Anxiety, depression, difficulty staying focused, isolation, low self-esteem, fears or phobias, nightmares, post-traumatic stress, flashbacks (remembering the assault), alcohol or substance use/abuse, and thoughts of self-harm, including body mutilation and suicide.
Denial, fear, sadness, embarrassment, detachment, anger, shock, shame, lack of control, confusion, and emotionlessness.
Pay Attention to What You Say to a Survivor
The most important thing to remember is to let the survivor lead the conversation.
Here are some conversation starters:
- “It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
- “Thank you so much for trusting me with your story.”
- “I care about you and am here to listen and help in any way I can.”
- “This shouldn’t have happened to you, it must be really tough.”
Empower them to make decisions on which steps to take next:
- “There are resources available for you for recovery and reporting what happened. Are you ready to talk about that?”
- “We don’t have to talk or make a decision about this right now, but would it be okay for me to send you a message with some resources if and when you’d want to look into it?”
- Encourage the survivor to practice self-care to help them cope with the short- and long-term effects of a sexual assault.
- “It’s important to keep your body healthy and strong to support your recovery. Can you think about a time when you felt physically healthy? Were there activities you did to start the day off right or wind down at the end of the day?”
- “Emotional self-care means different things to different people. Can you think about a time when you felt balanced and grounded? What activities did you use to enjoy? Was there someone, or a group of people, that you felt safe and supported around?”
Tips about self-care after traumaLearn more here
How Can I Help if I Witness Something? Take Action!
As a band of brothers and sisters, we have a duty and obligation to take action.
- Notice the event.
- Interpret the event as a problem.
- Decide on how to intervene - direct, distract, delegate - and take action!
The 3D’s of Bystander Intervention
- Address the perpetrator: “You need to stop.” “Why would you say that?” “That is so inappropriate.”
- Remove either party from the situation/ hostile environment (potential victim or perpetrator): “Hey, I want to show you something. Come over here with me.”
- Have personal courage to intervene: “I don’t see how XYZ is relevant or appropriate to this conversation.”
- Do anything that distracts the perpetrator; change the subject, ask either person to go do something, or say, “I think someone is coming.”
- Delegate the intervention to others; have friends, squad/section members, or coworkers take wither person out of the situation.
- Send someone for help to intervene (Chain of Command, MPs, etc.)
Find your SARC