The aftermath of sexual assault can be difficult for survivors in a number of ways, physically, emotionally, and financially. If your partner is a sexual assault survivor, you understand how difficult this recovery process can be. To best support your partner, it is important to practice kindness, compassion, and understanding each step of the way.
Tip #1: Give Your Partner the Space to Share
Discussing past sexual assault can be a traumatizing and difficult part of a relationship, but it is also one of the most important milestones. Give your partner the space to share his or her story when he or she feels comfortable doing so. When your partner does confide in you, make sure you listen with compassion, empathy, and respect.
Avoid pressing your partner for details about the assault. This could trigger a flashback or re-traumatize your partner, since discussing the story in detail may feel like he or she is reliving it. Practice active listening, and allow your partner to share the details that he or she feels comfortable sharing.
Tip #2: Prioritize Consent
Sexual assault occurs when a perpetrator commits a sexual act onto another person without his or her consent, and survivors can feel like they lose their agency and voice following sexual violence. It is important to rebuild these boundaries and sense of control by prioritizing consent in your relationship.
While you should always ask for verbal, enthusiastic consent before intimacy, consent isn’t limited to sexual activities. Incorporate consent into each aspect of your relationship, from what you eat for dinner to what movie you watch afterward. Allowing your partner to have control over his or her own choices can help restore this agency.
Tip #3: Practice Clear, Consistent Communication
Communication, in addition to consent, is important to help restore a survivor’s sense of control over his or her life following an assault. Practicing open, honest, and consistent communication with your partner ensures that you are both on the same page and allows you and your partner to understand each other on a deeper level.
Make it a habit to check in with your partner daily, and let each other know if you are struggling emotionally or having a bad day. If your partner is going through a rough time, listen actively to him or her and ask your partner how you can best support his or her needs.
Tip #4: Do Not Pressure Your Partner for Intimacy
Survivors of sexual assault can find it difficult to engage in sexual activities following their assault, and it requires time and healing in order for the survivor to feel sexually comfortable again. If your partner does not want to be intimate, it is vital to respect his or her wishes and to never pressure him or her for sex.
Allow your partner the space and comfort necessary for his or her intimate healing. Discuss what you can do to make him or her feel more comfortable, and whether or not he or she would feel comfortable if you initiate sexual contact. Continue to have these conversations and check in regularly with your partner about his or her feelings towards sexual intimacy.
Attorneys for Survivors of Sexual Violence
If your partner is struggling with the aftermath of a sexual assault, the tips above can help you support him or her through this process. However, your partner may require more specialized assistance to help him or her bring the perpetrator to justice. In these situations, speak to your partner about contacting a sexual assault attorney.
Your partner’s lawyer can help him or her understand what legal pathways to justice are available to them, including civil lawsuits and criminal trials. If your partner chooses to do so, encourage him or her to contact a sexual assault attorney as soon as possible.