The Partner Handbook
This blog post is part of the feature blog, "In My Own Words" by The Warrior Network Vice President, Christopher Dallaire, which focuses on issues specific to the partner of the survivor, while navigating the survivor's healing process.
Thank you so much for reading my second blog post. Hopefully you can attain needful information from my posts. In this blog, I will focus on specific tips that are useful in helping out a spouse, loved one, or friend that is a survivor of sexual abuse.
The first tip is very simple: believe them. If your loved one discloses to you that they are a victim of sexual assault, just believe them. Don't be skeptical of their claim. Be conscious of the fact that the social landscape we live in has made it so that survivors feel silenced and blamed for their attack. What a shame!!
Another tip is to ask the right questions. When a loved one hears that somebody close to them has been raped, curiosity takes over and people want to hear details. Rape can manifest in many forms, and since the victim is someone you know, you are probably wondering many things: When did it happen? Where did it happen? Who's the jerkoff that would do such a thing? Questions like these could trigger a survivor and upset them. A proper question would be, "is there anything I can do for you?"
Another tip is to not minimize their feelings. Sexual assault is real, and it's visceral, and the feelings that come after are real. Your partner has been through the assault, thus it is your partner who decides how they feel.
Also, be willing to listen. Listening is one of the best tools you can use. You don't need to take on the role of counselor. Just be there and listen. Many times and in many situations, it's all you need to do. Don't take it personally if your partner gets angry, shuts down, cries, or gets depressed and anxiety ridden. Let them. You're not a counselor. Forgive yourself for that. Just be there and be available. Ask them what they need from you, and if they say "nothing," accept it. It's not about you at that moment and it's nothing against you. Remember that.
Be patient and forgiving. This is for everybody. In any relationship this is important. In any trauma, the healing process is a long one, so proceed at a pace that suits your partner. Check in with your partner, but let them set the pace themselves. Do not control this...very important!!
Lastly, be true to yourself. Take care of yourself. If you need counseling yourself, there is no shame in that. I hope this is helpful to all who are reading this blog. If you have any questions and/or need support, contact us or take a look at the Survivor Resources page.
Thank you so much for reading!