SUPPORT FOR A MALE AFTER A SEXUAL ASSAULT
If a male relative or friend tells you that he has been sexually assaulted, whether this was a recent occurrence or many years later, implementing the following 5 steps can be a great help to starting the recovery process.
Never deny that his sexual assault may not have happened, it is not your role to question the legitimacy of his traumatic experience. Be compassionate and accepting. No one deserves to experience sexual abuse, no matter the circumstances; sexual assault is NEVER the survivors fault!
HELP HIM EXPLORE HIS OPTIONS
Don’t try and take control of the situation because you believe he is weak and lacking ability. Never pressure him to do what you think he should do, rather allow him to have a say and make the decisions, give him the choice and freedom to a path of recovery that is comforting for him, even if you may want to do things differently. Remember this is his journey, you may guide but do not enforce. All people will respond differently after experiencing such an attack, be prepared for a mixture of emotions.
Please bear in mind that if the sexual abuse is of a very recent nature, it is especially important to get to medical care as soon as possible to treat for any injuries or sexually transmitted diseases that may result from the sexual abuse. Be caring, calming, kind and gentle in your efforts in helping and aiding others.
ATTEND AND LISTEN TO HIM
It is very important to let him know that he can talk to you whenever he feels ready and that you will always be ready to listen. Somewhere along the recovery process hey may come to you in search of support, be there and listen, try not to interrupt or express your own feelings, listen kindly and always remember this is about him and his recovery. You are becoming his pillar of strength, allow trust to develop between you by ensuring the confidentiality of his story and that he is safe in your presence. Remember the advice of Stephen Covey “Seek First to Understand.”
ASK HIM BEFORE YOU TOUCH
Remember, he has been through a very traumatic event and you may not know the full extent of what he has recently or previously faced. He may be very sensitive and anxious of people and highly aware of his personal space. Don’t assume that minor physical contact such as a gentle shoulder rub or a loving hug will be comforting, allow him his space, and before anything, always ask. Try not to take his reactions to you personally if he retreats, this takes time, bear with him and be patient, you love him and want the best for him.
GET HELP FOR YOU
The impact of a sexual assault extends far beyond the survivor. When reaching out and helping others, one often finds that they begin to burn out themselves from the stress and array of emotions faced when dealing with a loved one who has been assaulted. It is a good idea to contact counselling help lines, not only to help your loved one, but to also to receive counselling and care for yourself and the struggle you are facing. Contact SAMSOSA for a referral or any of the listed organisations, choose somewhere you are comfortable with.
The above 5 steps can greatly help in preventing a victim from experiencing secondary victimisation, that is to prevent the further violation of the victim through hostile attitudes, negative stereotypes and a judgemental view.
Inspired by an article from Association Of Alberta Sexual Assault Services