Supporting Survivors, not just in April

by Delphine Burns

Editor in Chief

Today marks the official one-year anniversary of my sexual assault, and also the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. For the past week I’ve been reflecting a lot on my own trauma and the  many ways in which sexual violence negatively impacts the lives of many. I’ve noticed an abundance of 5C students on Facebook RSVP’ing to various survivor support events during the month of April, and while that sends a wonderful message, we have some work to do. Unfortunately some of the people planning to attend these events are some of the same people who have unintentionally alienated survivors with exclusive language, rape jokes, or general unwillingness to address the issue and listen. I know it can be intimidating to talk to a survivor about their experience because there is no universal protocol for helping survivors heal, but you have to try. We need you as allies, we know you aren’t perfect, and we will not ostracize you for attempting to help. During Sexual Assault Awareness month (and always), we must not only be aware that sexual assault is an issue; we have to learn how to combat it and support those facing post-traumatic symptoms. This article is an invitation to support your survivor friends this month, and every month.

  1. Remember, this isn’t about you.  Make sure you’re listening and not centering someone else’s trauma around yourself.
  2. Not all survivors heal the same way. Ask what we need, and offer both support and solitude when we want it.
  3. Don’t assume that we do/don’t want to talk about our trauma. Sometimes we may desperately want to talk about our experience but we’re afraid to burden our friends. Other times we may not be in the mood to rehash traumatic experiences.
  4. Anyone can be a survivor and anyone can be a perpetrator. Don’t make assumptions based on identity. This issue impacts people from all communities.
  5. If we choose to confide in you, be present. It’s a big deal if we choose you to talk to. That means we trust you, so value and respect that trust.
  6. Make us feel safe. Know some resources on campus to help your friend, but respect our choice of whether or not to utilize those resources.
  7. Remind us we’re not alone. Offer to accompany us to get the help we need. Often times deciding to seek help is half the battle.
  8. Just be a good friend. If you show your friend compassion and empathy, it’s difficult to go wrong.
  9. Remember that our trauma doesn’t define us. We are survivors, but we are also students, friends, and many other things. Recognize the multiplicity of our identities.
  10. Take care of yourself. Remember, you cannot offer water to others when your glass is empty. Take the time you need to collect your thoughts and ensure you feel emotionally stable before assisting someone else. If you’ve been through trauma, don’t feel as though you have to prioritize others before yourself. Give your own emotions the time and attention they deserve.

Resources:

EmPower Center:

1030 Dartmouth Avenue
909-607-2689

Project Sister Family Services 24-hour hotline:

909-626-4357

 

 

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