Resources for Friends, Relatives, Co-workers, and Bystanders

Parents:

It can be difficult speaking with your child about sexual assault. However, these necessary conversations can be crucial to helping your children understand how to stay safe. Click here for some great tips on how to be involved with your child to help them stay safe. Should your child disclose they have been sexually assaulted, please know there is no “right” way to respond. You may experience a wide range of emotions, but it’s important to manage your feelings to create an environment that makes your child feel safe for disclosing, and also keeps your child from feeling any blame. Click here for information on how to respond, questions to ask, and actions to take to help your child through this difficult time.

Co-workers:

If your co-worker has recently disclosed they have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment by another co-worker, it is important to contact your company’s Human Resource division. Companies have policies against sexual harassment, sexual coercion, and sexual assault, and it is important to report sexual misconduct by a supervisor or co-worker. You can reference your companies policies and procedures for how to report sexual misconduct in the workplace.

Relatives and Friends:

Sexual assault can be a very hard issue to deal with when your friend or relative discloses that they have been sexually assaulted. You may experience a range of different emotions, and be unsure of what to say or what to do. Don’t panic, that reaction is completely normal. What happens after, however, could make all the difference. If you need help talking to your friend or loved one about sexual assault, click here. Please understand that it is not your problem to “fix,” simply being present and being supportive is the best kind of help you can offer.

Bystanders: 

Absolutely anyone can become a victim of Sexual Assault, but anyone can be an advocate as well. If you see something happening that doesn’t seem right, all it takes is a single conscientious act to change a life for the better.

  • If you’re out with friends and someone makes a misogynist comment or joke about rape: Gently question the speaker as a way of getting them to think about it in a different way. Try asking how they would feel if they had experienced rape and overheard this? Ask them what if the subject of the joke was a member of their family, do they think they’d feel differently?
  • If you’re in a nightclub and you see someone grope someone else: Approach the victim, maybe pretend like you know them to deter the other person. Offer them help, ask them if there’s anything you can do and if they’re ok. Maybe tell them you saw the incident and you’re sorry it happened, it shouldn’t have happened. Offer to go to the bar manager, or wait with them until they get a cab, or until the person who groped them has left.
  • If you see someone being catcalled and harassed in the street or continually receiving unwanted advances: It’s not advisable to go wading in like Prince Charming, you could end up exacerbating the situation and putting yourself at risk. Offering to wait with someone at the bus stop, calling them a cab, or calling the police if need be is a good start. Providing affirmation that it’s not OK and you’re on the victim’s side is a powerful way to support them and help them to recover.
  • What should you do if you see someone being assaulted or attacked?
    As with any other type of violent crime, if you witness a physical assault, you should call the police.

Practical Advice for the Significant Other:   

Sexual assault is an extremely invasive violation that has a dramatic impact on the lives of its victims. This experience might bring other problems within the family to the surface. In order to offer the best possible support while also maintaining and protecting the relationship it is important that significant others understand not only the impact of a sexual assault on the victim, but also how this indecent will affect them personally.

Some Important Facts:

  • The primary motive for sexual assault is power not sex.
  • Someone’s actions or dress cannot send a message “asking” to be raped.
  • Most rapes are planned in advance. It is not an impulsive act.
  • It is not uncommon for victims to “freeze” when confronted with danger. Not fighting back does not mean the victim “wanted it.”
  • A sexual assault brings up strong feelings of powerlessness. It is important to allow the victim to make choices and be in control of what they need and want to recover.

 

When a friend or a family member confides in you, the first thing you should do is listen. Click here to learn how to be a better advice-giver.

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