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How To Support A Survivor of Sexual Assault?
This experience can be traumatic and have different effects on people. Some prefer to talk, others prefer to keep it in secret. But what you need to know is that sharing the story is the first step to recovery. So, if a friend of yours has decided that he/she is now ready to tell you his/her story, it means this person really trusts you. Our advice for you is to be understanding, supportive and genuine.

First of all, find a quiet and safe place to talk. Make sure there are no distractions or people who can listen to your talk. Turn your phone down/ put it on silent mode, and do whatever else you need to do, to demonstrate that you are present and actively listening. Your friend really needs your attention.

Ask your friend how he/she is feeling. Many survivors of assaults experience PTSD, which can cause anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, intrusive thoughts, and ultimately pose challenges to living an everyday life. Support your friend and let him/her/them know that it’s ok not to be ok and you can really be a shoulder to cry on. Show that you care and ask your friend if there is a need for professional support.
Make it clear that their assault is not their fault
Usually, survivors of assault blame themselves, thinking that if they had done something differently, the assault could have been prevented. This blame is amplified by society always judging the survivors. It is important to make your friend realize that no one can be blamed for a perpetrator’s sexual misconduct. Help your friend understand that he/she/they had no choice in being the victim of an assault.
Arată-i prietenului tău/prietenei tale sprijinul tău

Validează-i povestea. Deseori, unul dintre motivele pentru care supraviețuitorii nu își împărtășesc poveștile este teama că povestea lor va fi considerată neadevărată. Această învinuirea de către societate trebuie oprită. Statisticile indică faptul că este extrem de puțin probabil ca un atac raportat să fie fals - doar 2% din agresiunile raportate sunt false, la fel ca și în cazul altor crime.
Assure your friend that he/she/they will come through it
Being both a survivor and someone willing to talk about the hardships after a sexual harassment only proves what a truly powerful and strong person your friend is. Help your friend realize that sharing his/her/their story is not something one should be afraid of. This is an act of courage.
Show your friend your support. Validate the story
Frequently, one of the reasons why survivors aren’t sharing their stories is the fear that their story will be considered untrue. This social blame on victims needs to be stopped. Anyway, statistics indicate that it is extremely unlikely that an assault would be falsely reported - only 2% of assaults are falsely reported, which is the same as other felonies.
Remind your friend that he/she/they is/are the one to decide

Don’t put any pressure on your friend. Just gently remind him/her/them that the option of reporting the harassment or assault is always available and he/she/they is/are the one to decide whether to do it or not. While extremely hard to do, reporting can prevent new harassments from the same perpetrator. 

Assault is a crime, in which assailants are more likely to perpetrate again in environments where sexual violence goes unpunished. Don't forget to mention that you will support your friend whatever his/her/their decision will be. It is his/her/their story and no one else can decide how it should end.

Assure your friend that he/she/they is/are not alone
Sharing a sexual assault experience is a difficult challenge and an act of courage. Remind your friend about the #MeToo movement and the survivors who have a successful living despite the pain they have experienced. There is no need to make his/her/their story public, if your friend doesn’t feel that, but talking and being open to share his/her/their thoughts and feelings is a huge step in overcoming the hardest moments.
Suggest your friend to do medical tests

Even though reporting is not always the best option, medical examination is a necessity. You should mention the fact that your friend’s health depends on the medical investigation that has to be done. If your friend is at risk of pregnancy, the options to consider are emergency contraception and pregnancy test (repeated within the next 2 weeks).

Other tests recommended for a person of any gender after an assault include testing for sexually transmitted diseases (as Gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, human papillomavirus infection, syphilis, and hepatitis) in 6 weeks, HIV infection in 3 months and Syphilis, hepatitis, and HIV infection test repeated in 6 months. Many doctors use blood tests, urine tests, vaginal, cervical, or urethral swabs to check for STIs. If your friend has no money to pay for the tests, which might be expensive in private clinics, offer your help to do the research on free tests in the public healthcare sector and non-profit organizations.

Keep the confidentiality of your talk
You are here to listen, not to judge or comment. For sure you care a lot for your friend. Even though you may think it is better to report your friend’s experience in order to stop the perpetrator, the survivor is the only one to decide whether to do it or not. You are just the listener and the supporter, not the one who should make decisions, even if your opinion is different and you have only good intentions.
Take care of your own feelings
Although it may be difficult to accept, remember that the assault was not in your control, not in your friends control, but solely in the control of the person who perpetrated the act. You may feel frustrated, angry or disheartened that something like this has happened to a friend, but don’t blame yourself for not being able to help more. The fact that your friend is sharing the story with you already shows how important you are and how much confidence they have in you. At this stage, your support and validation is enough.
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