As a society, we can all take steps to better support survivors, whether we know someone directly affected or not.
Tackling sexual violence and abuse, and ensuring those affected are able to heal from their trauma can at times feel like an overwhelming challenge.
However, everyone can make a difference in their own small way.
Here are 5 simple things we encourage everyone to do:
1. Believe Survivors
It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share what has happened.
Survivors often do not tell for fear that they will not be believed, or they may be worried they will be blamed for what happened.
As a result, it can be many years before a survivor feels ready to talk to someone, so when they do, how you respond is important.
If someone tells you they have been sexually abused or assaulted, one of the most important things you can say is, “I believe you”.
The best thing you can do is believe them, even when they are doubting themselves. In this moment you are there to simply support this person.
The Survivors Trust has a selection of useful phrases that can helpful when responding to a disclosure of rape, sexual abuse or assault >>
2. Be an ally
Education is a key part of being an ally to survivors. Make yourself aware of what sexual violence is and the impact it has on survivors.
It isn’t easy reading, but it is important for non-survivors take time to understand the impact it has on many lives.
To be an ally, it is also important to be inclusive of the different experiences of all survivors.
Male, female and LGBTQ+ survivors all deserve equal respect and understanding.
More information about the different types of sexual violence, and the impact it has can be found here >>
Education will also help tackle the alarming rape myths and misunderstandings that still surround sexual violence and abuse. Learn more about busting common rape myths here >> (LINK TO BLOG)
It is very easy to ignore subjects that we think do not directly affect us, but better education across society as a whole will allow us to tackle sexual violence and abuse, and support survivors more effectively.
Training opportunities (LINK TO TRAINING PAGE) are available for professionals working in the sexual violence sector, and beyond to improve their understanding of issues related to sexual violence and abuse.
3. Look after yourself too
If someone you care about discloses an experience of sexual violence or abuse you are likely to have a lot of your own emotions to deal with too.
These are valid, but try not to overwhelm the survivor with your own feelings.
Seeing you upset, or angry could make the survivor feel distressed and worry that they shouldn’t have told you, or they may even think you’re angry at them.
Instead, you can seek support from a helpline, or local charity (Link to Members Listing page) to help you manage your feelings about the abuse or assault of a loved one.
The Survivors Trust helpline(www.thesurvivorstrust.org/our-helpline) offers emotional support to friends and family of survivors.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself and practise self-care, as you won’t be able to support a loved-one unless you care for yourself first.
4. Give to charities that support survivors
One of the simplest ways you can support a survivor is by donating to charities who offer specialist support to survivors and their families.
The Survivors Trust London, are part of a network of over 120 members of The Survivors Trust.
Each of these organisations is a local charity that provides vital services to survivors of sexual abuse, rape or assault.
These charities offer a wide range of counselling, one-to-one support, ISVA services and group therapy to all types of survivors and often depend on the generosity of fundraisers to keep their services running.
If you wish to donate to any of The Survivors Trust London members, donate via their individual website which can be found here >> (LINK TO THE LISTING PAGE OF LONDON SERVICES)
5. Campaign for change
The Survivors Trust London strives to bring awareness to key issues impacting survivors.
This can be anything from issues in the availability of sufficient funding for support services, to the current failures that need addressing within the Criminal Justice System, to ensure more perpetrators of sexual violence and abuse are bought to justice.
Campaigning in your own community can help to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence in the UK and the effects that it has on victims and survivors.
Campaigning can be as simple as sharing a message on social media, or signing a petition.
Follow The Survivors Trust London (LINK TO TWITTER), and it’s members(LINK TO LISTING PAGE) on social media to keep up-to-date with the latest campaigns.