How to be a supportive parent to a sexual assault survivor
National Sexual Assault
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- DO listen to and validate your child’s feelings–do not be dismissive of the guilt, sadness, humiliation, anger, fear or other symptoms (s)he may experience. Saying “I’m sorry this has happened to you” or “it is understandable why you would feel this way” are examples of ways that you can show your child that you are listening.
- DO validate your child’s worth. Your child may feel stupid, weak, worthless, or ashamed. If you hear your child putting her/himself down, give examples of a time when your child exemplified the opposite of the negative things (s)he is saying. Validate your child often, without being prompted.
- DO avoid “why” questions–saying “why didn’t you do X?” or “why did you do Y?” will place blame on your child for something that was not her/his fault.
- DO protect your child. Ask if (s)he feels safe where they are: if not, help your child find another place to stay. Look up your child’s legal rights and what (s)he should be provided under Title IX. Tell your child about the options available to her/him.
- DO encourage your child to seek medical attention and counseling services. Try to help your child find a trusted person to go to the hospital with him/her.
- DO ask your child if s/he wants to report the assault to authorities, the university, or both. Help your child contact police and school administrators if (s)he wants to pursue this option. Your child may feel frightened or hesitant to pursue these options–offer your support and encouragement, but also respect whichever option your child chooses, including not pursuing legal action.
- DO engage in self-care practices. Find someone to support you, whether that is a friend, family member, or counselor.
- DO NOT blame your child or yourself. Your child may have drank alcohol, used an illegal substance, or engaged in another activity that you do not approve of prior to being assaulted. You may be upset about this, but chances are that your child may blame her/himself for the assault and chastising about drug or alcohol use will likely increase your child's level of self-blame.
- DO NOT pressure your child for details or to talk about what happened. As difficult as it may be for your child to process the assault, it may also be difficult for you to hear of such a violent crime happening to your child.
- DO NOT take control away from your child. More than anything, right now your child needs someone that supports her/his right to have control over his/her body and decisions. Do your research on what protections your child should be given by the university, legal authorities, and the like, and offer options and suggestions, but also be prepared to take a step back if your child does not feel ready to pursue a particular option.
- DO NOT set a timeline for when (s)he should be "over it." Sexual assault is traumatizing, and everyone handles it differently. It can take years for someone to process the violation that happened to them and their body, and PTSD can be a life-long disorder. Saying “You have to stop acting like this” or “Don’t you think that’s enough?” can be very damaging to someone struggling to move past a traumatic event.