Whether you or someone you love has been affected by sexual assault, it’s crucial to have a support system in place. The reaction of the first person a survivor tells can impact his or her decision to move forward and get help — whether that involves contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline or reporting a crime to the police. In April, in honor of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, RAINN is focusing on ways to support a friend or relative  who may come to you to talk about their experience. Here are of few examples of how loved ones have helped three survivors through their healing.
For years, Cathy McCall was silent. She told no one about being sexually abused by her father when she was young. But when she was 40, Cathy experienced intense family stress that led to PTSD. Fortunately, Cathy’s husband was there to help her through the healing process. He stood by her through this difficult time and showed his support as a man, husband and best friend.
Advice from Cathy to other survivors: “Emotional safety is key. Be in relationships with only the people who treat you with respect. Read books that comfort or inspire you, or listen to music that fuels your hope and healing.”
M.E. Hart’s healing process began when he confided in a close friend, Phillip, about his childhood sexual abuse. To Hart’s surprise, Phillip told Hart that he, too, is a survivor of sexual abuse. “When you finally meet real people who have lived through the unimaginable, and are able to go back into life and thrive - that really inspired me, and motivated me to work on my own recovery,” says Hart. “Phillip’s supportive friendship changed the course of my life.”
Advice from Hart to other survivors: “Everyone’s healing journey is unique. Find a safe person to be honest with about what you are living with - a trusted friend, a hotline volunteer, or a professional service provider. Find someone who will support you.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org .