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Help for Allies

Women and non-binary people are at a higher risk for experiencing sexual violence. Men may find themselves in a position of support for a woman or non-binary survivor, e.g. friend, partner, and it can be challenging to know how to offer support, whilst also being challenging to their own mental health. It is therefore essential to be informed and empathetic when supporting women and non-binary survivors. This webpage aims to provide you with guidance on how to be a supportive ally, foster a safe and understanding environment and practice self-care.

If you find yourself witnessing a situation be an Active Bystander.

Sexual Violence and its Impacts

Before you can effectively support a survivor, it's crucial to understand what sexual violence is and its impact:


Sexual violence encompasses a range of non-consensual sexual acts where consent and respect are lacking. Sexual violence has both short- and long-term emotional, psychological, and physical effects that survivors may experience - every survivor's experience is unique, and their reactions may vary. 


It is important you avoid victim-blaming language or making assumptions about survivors. Rather, use inclusive and respectful language when discussing sexual violence.

Being an Active Listener

The best way to understand a survivor’s experience is to be an empathetic and non-judgemental listener. Be present and attentive when the survivor wants to talk but remember that you don't need to have all the answers. Sometimes, just listening without trying to solve their problems can be the most helpful. Actively listen through SOS:

 

  1. Safe Space:

    1. Let the survivor know that you are there to listen without judgment.

    2. Ensure privacy and confidentiality.

  2. Open Communication:

    1. Use open-ended questions to encourage the survivor to share their feelings and experiences.

    2. Avoid pushing them to disclose more than they are comfortable with.

  3. Show Empathy:

    1. Acknowledge their feelings and reactions without offering immediate solutions or advice.

    2. Offer emotional support through validating their emotions.

Offering Practical Support

  1. Encourage Professional Help. ​

  2. Respect Their Choices. 

    • Recognise that survivors may have varying responses, including reporting, or not reporting the violence and support their decisions without pressure.

  3. Provide Practical Assistance. 

    • Offer to accompany them to appointments or help with daily tasks if needed. Be patient and understanding of any changes in their behaviour or routines.

Read and Learn

Understanding the impact of sexual violence and the recovery process can help you better support the survivor and manage your own emotions.

Practising Self-Care

Supporting someone who has experienced sexual violence can be emotionally challenging, and it's essential to prioritise your own well-being while being there for them. It's natural to feel anger, sadness, or frustration when hearing about a loved one's trauma. Acknowledge these feelings, but also find healthy ways to cope with them. Here are 5 ways to look after yourself:

 

  1. Set Boundaries.

    • Establish clear boundaries between your support role and your personal life. Recognise when you need a break and communicate this to the survivor if necessary. It is important that you are not the survivor’s only support during this time, so encourage, them to reach out to professional support services.

  2. Seek Support for Yourself. 

    • Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist to talk about your own feelings and experiences. It's essential to have someone you can confide in who can offer emotional support to you, but make sure beforehand to ask the survivor the amount of detail they are happy for you to share, if any.

  3. Self-Care. 

    • Prioritise self-care activities that help you relax and recharge. This could include hobbies, exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.

  4. Recognise Your Limitations. 

    • Understand that you can't "fix" the survivor's trauma, and you may not be able to meet all their needs. 

  5. Know When to Refer. 

    • If you find that your own emotional well-being is significantly impacted, or if you feel overwhelmed and unable to provide adequate support, it may be appropriate to refer the survivor to a professional or a support organisation that specialises in trauma and recovery. If at any point there is a risk of harm to either yourself or the survivor, it is imperative that you reach out as soon as possible.

Authors: William Jackson-Nichols

Created: 01 October 2023

Last updated: 01 October 2023

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Practising Self-Care
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