5 steps to think about if you are considering disclosing to someone
Firstly, consider an individual who is emotionally available and who doesn’t know the abuser.
Disclose somewhere small and private, where you feel most grounded.
Remember boundaries, you do not have to disclose everything in detail, think about what information you are comfortable sharing
Evaluate your emotions and practice self-care after each new step in disclosure, by this we mean maintaining your personal well-being perhaps writing a journal, this includes taking time and space to acknowledge yourself esp. after you disclose.
If you want to make your abuse experience known to more people or disclose to your family, establish a base of support first with trusted others first like friends or cousins.
Supporting a survivor disclosing:
Remain calm and match their level of disclosure with your own reaction. I.e. If they normalise their experience, don't bring alarm to them
Validate feelings- Let them know that you believe them, you see them and you are there for them. It takes a lot of strength and courage to survive and to talk about experiences of sexual violence, acknowledge that.
Reassure them they are in a safe, confidential, non-judgemental space.
Listen, let them guide discussions without interruptions, practice active listening.
Many survivors find it difficult to trust others because of their experiences, especially if they've not been believed in the past. Try to reciprocate that trust by being patient and not push for them to tell you anything before they're ready. Don't press for details.
Support them to explore their feelings and support options, so they then make their own decisions on what happens next at their pace. Avoid looking for an instant solution. We are not expected to have all the answers or to fix things.
Instead of encouraging the survivor to share more details, let the survivor disclose to a level they are comfortable with
It is not advisable to make promises you cannot keep such as I will never let this happen to you again
Remember your role is to support the survivor in their choices, so do not contact the perpetrator despite how you feel
Discourage yourself from being judgemental or offering advice, your role is to listen
Respect the trust the survivor has placed in you with the disclosure. Discourage yourself from gossiping about this information or sharing without consent.
Discourage yourself from interrupting however if you are not in the right emotional place to receive this information then kindly inform the survivor
6 ways of practising self-care for a survivor. Self-care is about taking steps to feel healthy and comfortable. Self-care can help you cope with the short- and long-term effects of a trauma like sexual assault
Connect – Spend time with someone, or a group of people, that you felt safe and supported around
Physical care – You don't have to go to the gym. Take a walk, find an activity that you enjoy. Eat food that makes you feel healthy and strong. And you get enough sleep
Keep learning – learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence
Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it's a smile, a thank you or a kind word
Be mindful – be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you
Emotional care - write down your thoughts in a journal, spend time in places that give you inspiration where you feel comfortable and grounded.