The sexual assault of someone you are close to can change the way that you see the world.
Even though you were not the victim of the assault, hearing your loved one’s story and helping to support them can impact you as well. When someone that you care about tells you that they have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, it can be difficult. You may have a range of reactions that could include shock, anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, and/or denial.
You may find:
- Your belief in personal safety has been impacted, especially if your loved one was assaulted in a place that you live or visit.
- There are new conflicts in your relationships, whether those are intimate partner relationships, friendships, or family relationships. This can be especially true if the person who committed the assault is a mutual acquaintance or a relative.
- You are more easily irritated or less tolerant of frustrations.
- You have nightmares or trouble sleeping.
- You feel distant and avoidant of people and activities that you usually find pleasurable, especially if your loved one was assaulted in one of these places.
Suggestions for coping with these feelings:
- Stay involved in activities that don’t revolve around your loved one’s experience. It can be easy to get caught up in what is happening to him or her.
- Get involved in a new sport or hobby that you love and find other people who are doing the same thing.
- Make a date night with a spouse, partner, or friend and stick with it.
- Treat leisure appointments as seriously as business appointments. If you have plans to do something for fun, mark it on your calendar.
- It is OK to set limits if you find that you are getting too involved with what is happening to your loved one.
- Find a friend or family member that can support you.
- Keep a journal. It may be helpful to write down some of the feelings that you are experiencing.
- Remember that it is still OK to laugh and have fun.
- You may want to consider talking to a counselor, psychologist, or therapist and/or calling a local or national rape crisis hotline. They can offer counseling or connect you with a provider. Consider the following:
- Dutchess County Rape Crisis Center: 845-452-7272
- RAINN (Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network) Hotline: 800-656-4673
As you work to support your loved one, remember that it is important to maintain your own emotional health. It can be easy to get caught up in their needs and to forget about your own. You cannot help your loved one if you are in crisis yourself.