A secondary survivor refers to the family, friend or partner of an abused person. The situation is of course difficult for the victim of sexual abuse, but the pain extends to his or her loved ones too. The support of the secondary survivors is very much important to the recovery of the victim; it makes the victim feel that they are still cared for despite of what happened to them.
A victim of sexual abuse normally feels afraid and hesitant; he or she may lose self-confidence and often falls into depression if he or she doesn’t get the necessary help after the assault took place. For secondary survivors, knowing that someone they deeply care about has gone through a very hurtful experience is also heartbreaking. There are times that they also struggle with the feeling of helplessness after the incident; they do not know how to respond to the situation and whom to seek help for.
It is truly difficult to know the right things to say to comfort your family or friend who was victimized by sexual assault. However, your compassionate and validating responses can really do a lot for their recovery. It’s fairly alright to not have all the answers for them; just being there by their side with no judgment is already a wonderful support to the victim.
Sexually abused victims lose their ‘power’ of self because of their traumatic experience; as a secondary survivor, you may help them gain control of what happens next by letting them make their own decisions. It could start with letting them choose whom they talk to and what legal actions they want to take.
Sexual abuse is a serious crime against anyone; you have to be extra understanding and patient with the victim because they have lost their sense of almost everything – strength, power, safety, trust and so on…
What You Should Do if the Abuse Happened in the Past Few Days
Advise your family or friend to immediately undergo a physical examination to help the authorities gather evidence against the perpetrator. Health services also provide medications to help prevent infections and diseases caused by the sexual abuse.
What You Should Do If the Victim Feels Unsafe
Victims of sexual abuse normally feel physically and emotionally unsafe after they have been assaulted… If you are dealing with a worse case such as he or she is becoming suicidal or at the risk of hurting others, then you should contact the authorities right away. But if they are not in immediate danger, help them make changes in their surroundings that will make them feel safer. If they want to change the color of the walls, then do so! Do whatever you can to foster a safer environment for your loved one and always remember that there are support groups available to help you along the way. Encourage your loved one to speak about things that will make him or her feel safer and unthreatened.
Recognize the Tactics of Perpetrators
Most sexual abuse cases remain to be unreported because the victims are afraid or threatened; if you’re dealing with a loved one, who shows the same signs, consider seeking the help of professionals. It’s quite difficult to identify a person who would commit a sexual assault because they could be anyone! They are located in all parts of the world and usually ‘mask’ their real personas to be able to commit more than one sexual assault. These people are indeed dangerous! They may seem friendly and charismatic but can be a totally different person behind closed doors.
The following are examples of the common tactics that sexually abusive persons may use or do:
- They usually establish trust with their potential victim; this is a part of their planning and preparation for what they really intend to do
- They are good in assessing a person’s vulnerability, this is how they choose their victims
- They only used the necessary amount of force to succeed with their plan; body weight is usually enough
- They may use alcohol or drugs to increase the vulnerability of their victims
- Perpetrators usually deny the crime that they’ve committed by claiming that the assault was consensual