AS a supporter
Support from close ones is crucial to victims of sexual violence.
However, if the victim's feelings and needs are not understood and appropriate skills are missing in the support process, it may be counterproductive and hinder the recovery of the victim.
The following information can help you as a supporter.
RainLily Hotline：2375 5322
If you understand their feelings and know their needs, it will help them start to recover.
Following sexual violations, they may be experiencing these :
Emotional ups and downs (may be emotional, but also may be extremely calm)
Often remember the details of the incident, so it is difficult to concentrate
Panic easily, appear anxious and experience nightmares
Feel irritable or prone to throw a temper
Depressed or always cry Feel helpless, lost and confused
Guilt and self-blame
Loss of security
Busy oneself to avoid remembering the incident
Unwilling to accept that the incident happened
Try to trace the cause of the incident
Believe the damage by the incident is irreparable
Worry about facing other people
Fear of being harmed again, making it hard to trust others
Escape from group life
You need to understand their feelings first, next you need to know their needs.
THeir feelings and needs
What do they need to feel?
How can you respond to their needs?
Make them feel safe
Pay attention to the dangers and worries they may encounter and give them advice on how to be safe
Make them feel affirmed
Regardless of the cause of the sexual violence, validate their perception of physical and psychological harm caused by the sexual violence
Make them feel trusted
Do not judge their feelings
Avoid questioning their description and memory of the incident in an interrogative manner
Make them feel supported
Care about their health, if possible, accompany them to medical follow-up
Understand their fears and seek the assistance of others with their consent
Make them feel accepted
Avoid commenting on the incident and their personal background
Understand their psychological needs
Give them encouragement
“The most important point is: make them understand it is not their fault that this happened!”
The greatest hurt of sexual violence lies in the public judgement it brings and the negation of the victim's self-worth. It is as if victims are trapped in the quicksand and getting eroded by fallacious beliefs and discriminations. So, as a supporter around them, your support is needed to uplift them.
We understand that you might feel helpless when you learn that they have been violated. If you experience this, you may also call us at 2375-5322. We are with you to support the victims.
Please believe : Your support is their biggest boost!
Please bear in mind the following principles while supporting them:
1. Believe them
Based on common fallacious perceptions of the victims of sexual violence, especially when the aggressor is someone familiar, you may find it hard to accept the news for a while. Sexual violence occurs more often in private, and it is very difficult for victims to find evidence. This situation may make you feel complicated as to whether you should believe in their words.
The following ideas may also affect your trust in them:
“Sexual violence is a serious crime. There must be concrete evidence before a complaint can come forth because even innocent people may not be convicted in the end, the ones being accused will bear great reputational damage.”
The physical and psychological needs and safety of the victim are the priorities that you most need to care for at this moment, and ensuring that the incident has sufficient evidence to maintain the reputation of the aggressor is beyond your grasp and not your own responsibility.
“Their words were so confusing and unclear in detail that even their own affirmation of what had happened was probably just their misunderstanding.”
When one faced sexual violence, their first response may be shocked, distressed, confused, their mind could be blank and unresponsive. During the incident, they may be violated without being aware of it, so it is possible that the details of the incident are not clearly described or chronologically mixed afterwards. In fact, it is not an easy task to admit or face sexual violence by oneself. Your acceptance will help them face the trauma caused by the incident.
“They are familiar with the assailant, how can that person violate them?”
Most incidents of sexual violence, especially ones between acquaintances, are premeditated. The beginning may be just some improper bodily collision, such as touching the sensitive parts of the victim, but these contacts may be exacerbated. The victim's uncomfortable feelings and complaints are the best distress signals. You need to take action or seek the help of RainLily.
2. Encourage them to voice out
We all look forward to forgetting painful experiences as soon as possible: "let this be a thing of the past" and then "continue with life as it was." Many victims opt to not mention their incident; some expect to forget the event and start their life again. "Forgetting" is often the victim's coping way, but avoiding and repressing cannot cure the traumatic feelings inside. The more they force themselves to forget, the more they are disturbed by the incident. When they find themselves unable to forget, they will feel hopeless!
Life experiences, whether good or bad, can be part of the history of our lives. Negating our own history is the same as denying ourselves. How can we live a good life? "Forgetting" cannot cure the trauma; on the contrary, voicing out should be encouraged. During the recollection, they can rearrange the chaotic emotions, gradually overcome the fear and process puzzled thoughts to find reason. They can learn from this experience, recognise the reality, understand that the wrong is not their own, affirm their own value, and restructure their lives in acceptance.
3. Respect their choices and decisions
They need to make some choices and decisions in the face of trauma. When facing a decision, please talk to them well, let go of assumptions and listen to their needs. If you have some worry, try to speak out frankly and discuss with them, but in the end you must respect their decision to make them feel respected to re-establish their sense of control over their life.
4. Understand and ceaseless care
They could not get out of victimisation after being violated: "Everyone is a bad person, do not come near me, I will not trust anyone again!" or "I have no value at all, no one will care about me!" or "I was hurt because no one was protecting me. The only way to keep having the protection of others is to keep myself in a hurtful situation!"
Sexual violence undermines their trust in people, surrounded environment and even in their own life. They may be full of resentment, resist anyone's approach, find it harder to believe that anyone will be true, and even attempt self-destruction for others' care. As a supporter, you may be challenged and rejected again and again by the victim. You may face repeated emotional attacks from the victim, and even struggle with the ongoing “crisis” of the victim. At this time you may feel frustrated and helpless.
We want to share with you our belief that everyone has the will to survive and they will find their own effective ways to transition through hardship.
You should understand that they are choosing their way to deal with confusion after the violation. We do not need to pretend to have the necessary solutions. Let them suggest the support and let them know they can receive with firm understanding and care. Also, let them know that despite the loss caused by sexual violence such as their sense of security and confidence in controlling their life, that themselves and their personality are unchanged, and they still deserves to be cared for and trusted! Unwavering support helps them regain the sense of self-control and trust in life.
To the supporters
We must admit that we cannot be absolutely neutral. In fact, we all have certain value judgments on the victims of sexual violence. These values are affecting how we react to sexual violence and the victims.
Of course, we do not have to completely change our existing values. In fact, it is impossible. However, we must honestly confront our own concepts and be more aware of how our own values affect our behavioral and emotional responses. We must take good care of ourselves, and at the same time constantly balance any contradictions and accompany the victim to recover in the healthiest conditions.
When we handle sexual violence, we all have our own limitations. We may find it hard to accept, feel fear or overwhelmed when we help victims to cope. As an effective supporter, we must first and foremost confront our own limitations. We should be open-minded to face sexual violence and learn more about "sex" and "sexual violence" then walk along the victim. We need to understand that the reactions from others affect how victims understand their situation. As sexual violence may just be the beginning of more violence, as victims face different people, different procedures and different judgement, these responses can contribute to their recovery but may also cause secondary trauma.
Sexual violence is definitely an act of violence against the victim, which is not just physical but includes both psychological and mental, using sex as weapon to violate the victim's privacy, trample on their dignity and crack down on their trust in life. Therefore, when supporting them, we cannot ignore the impact of the taboo, discrimination, fear, fallacies and other ideas and reactions related to sex. When we understand how sexual violence virtually harms the victim, we can understand how they feel haunted and then give them acceptance and adequate care to help rebuild their life. While sexual violence will always be unwelcomed, victims of sexual violence are not hopeless. From our experience of engaging with victims, we appreciate and admire their vitality, courage, and hope even in suffering. Their lives can still blossom like rainlilies.
“In the recovery process, victims experience change and may no longer be how they were, but they can definitely be proud as they learnt more about life to live it beautifully.”
We understand that when you might feel helpless after you learned that someone you know has experienced sexual violence. If you encounter this situation, you can also call RainLily at 2375-5322.
Let us work with you to support the survivors!