For Supporters of Survivors

Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (SAC Kingston) also serves friends, family, and other support people, so that they may be better able to support survivors of sexualized violence.

Understanding Your Limits

Despite your best intentions, it is important to realize that survivors will determine for themselves what support they would like from you, that there are limits to what any individual can do, and that support can come from a number of diverse people. You need to remember to practice self care. No matter how much support you can give, counsellors with expertise in helping survivors of sexualized violence, like those at SAC Kingston, can be important people in the survivor’s healing path as well.

If you are seeking information and/or support yourself, please remember our 24 Hour Crisis and Support Line is for supporters too.

Checking Your Reactions

To best help survivors, it is important that you understand their reactions to the sexual assault as well as your own. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to understand your reactions when supporting survivors of sexualized violence:

  • What were my initial reactions to the survivor disclosing to me and why?
  • What are my views on sexualized and/or gender-based violence and why?
  • How has my family, culture, religion, political view, education, socioeconomic status, and so on worked to perpetuate traditional gender roles for women and men, which leads to violence?
  • What are some myths about sexualized violence and how can I bust them?
  • Have I experienced sexualized violence myself and how will that affect the ways I can support?
  • Do I have access to support for myself and how will that affect the ways I can support?
  • Do I understand my limits as an individual support person?

Identifying the Effects of Sexualized Violence

All survivors are different and can           experience various effects after                    their victimization, ranging from                     being extremely calm to being                  extremely distressed. These effects can          occur immediately or much later.                   They can persist for a short time or a            long time. They can be triggered by           various events in the lives of the           survivors. As a supporter of a survivor of sexualized violence, you may mirror           these effects also. Please practice self              care and seek support when you need it.

Intervening During Crisis

A crisis can be described as a system overload, not just one emergency, but an accumulation of emergencies. It is set off by the loss, or the threat of loss, of self esteem, control, or nurturing. Crisis can also be triggered by a situation or feeling that sparks old problems and concerns. A crisis is usually time limited. Crisis can be characterized by the disorganization of normal routines, feelings of anger, anxiety, helplessness, and frustration, and can demonstrate physical symptoms such as, loss of appetite, insomnia, agitation, pains, headaches, and muscle tensions.

Sexual assault obviously qualifies as a crisis, but survivors who have weathered the initial crisis of the assault can re-experience crisis, as they try to integrate that experience into their lives.

If you are supporting a survivor during a time of crisis, take note of the components of crisis intervention that the volunteers on our 24 Hour Crisis and Support Line use with callers. Crisis intervention is:

  • Providing safety and security for the survivor to communicate.
  • Establishing trust with the survivor.
  • Identifying and helping to prioritize the issues the survivor is dealing with.
  • Exploring options to address the issues.
  • Developing a plan to address the issues.
  • Following up with the survivor on the plan.

A Note about Suicide

There is a big difference between having thoughts involving suicide and committing suicide. If survivors you are supporting express suicidal thoughts, they may be expressing the fact that they are in pain and expressing emotions is completely okay. By listening to survivors empathetically, you can explore their intentions and help them find alternatives to suicide. Again, it is important to remember that there are limits to what any individual can do.

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