Identifying the Effects of Sexualized Violence
All survivors are different and can experience various effects after their victimization, ranging from being extremely calm to being extremely distressed. These effects can occur immediately or much later. They can persist for a short time or a long time. They can be triggered by various events in the lives of the survivors. As a supporter of a survivor of sexualized violence, you may mirror these effects also. Please practice self care and seek support when you need it.
Intervening During Crisis
A crisis can be described as a system overload, not just one emergency, but an accumulation of emergencies. It is set off by the loss, or the threat of loss, of self esteem, control, or nurturing. Crisis can also be triggered by a situation or feeling that sparks old problems and concerns. A crisis is usually time limited. Crisis can be characterized by the disorganization of normal routines, feelings of anger, anxiety, helplessness, and frustration, and can demonstrate physical symptoms such as, loss of appetite, insomnia, agitation, pains, headaches, and muscle tensions.
Sexual assault obviously qualifies as a crisis, but survivors who have weathered the initial crisis of the assault can re-experience crisis, as they try to integrate that experience into their lives.
If you are supporting a survivor during a time of crisis, take note of the components of crisis intervention that the volunteers on our 24 Hour Crisis and Support Line use with callers. Crisis intervention is:
- Providing safety and security for the survivor to communicate.
- Establishing trust with the survivor.
- Identifying and helping to prioritize the issues the survivor is dealing with.
- Exploring options to address the issues.
- Developing a plan to address the issues.
- Following up with the survivor on the plan.
A Note about Suicide
There is a big difference between having thoughts involving suicide and committing suicide. If survivors you are supporting express suicidal thoughts, they may be expressing the fact that they are in pain and expressing emotions is completely okay. By listening to survivors empathetically, you can explore their intentions and help them find alternatives to suicide. Again, it is important to remember that there are limits to what any individual can do.