Important needs of survivors
To be believed:
People rarely lie about rape or sexual abuse. It is important to believe what the person is saying. Being believed helps to reduce barriers to accessing support and helps someone to start their healing journey.
To be listened to:
Being able to talk about the sexual assault with someone who is not going to judge, advise, take over, rescue, over react, trivialise, ignore, tell others, blame or seek revenge.
To take control and have a choice:
Survivors need choice, power and control at all stages in the support process. Rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse involves the perpetrator taking control over their victim/survivor. Loss of control and a sense of powerlessness is fundamental to the experience. Regaining a sense of power over one’s life is central to healing, acceptance and recovery.
To access information:
In order to be able to make choices, people who have been raped, sexually assaulted or abused need clear, accessible information relevant to their individual priorities and needs. Regardless of how recent the assault, people typically need information about legal, medical, mental health, practical support, counselling and other options and services.
To feel safe:
Try to create a safe space for the person. Different people have different safety needs. Immediately following assault, and sometimes in the long term, access to physical safety is a driving need. Most women and some men who have been sexually assaulted feel unsafe in the presence of men, particularly men in positions of power and authority.
To have privacy:
Many people find sexual assault difficult to disclose, particularly where the perpetrator was a family member, or someone they knew. The need for privacy includes being able to access services without being seen entering a named sexual assault service.
- The best guideline to follow is never to force someone to disclose information. This is their right.
- Talking about a past traumatic incident can bring on panic attacks and flashbacks.
- Disclosing rape and sexual abuse whether recent or historic can have big consequences on the victim/survivors life as they currently know it.
- It is estimated 28% of women who experience rape or sexual abuse will tell no one.
Reporting the assault to the police
We believe it should always be the choice of the adult survivor to report to the police or not.
- It is estimated that 85% of victims / survivors will not want to report the assault to the police.
- The police in Avon and Somerset now aim to work closely with sexual violence services to support the victim / survivor as much as possible if they do decide to report the assault.
- Survivors do get positive outcomes from reporting to the police. It can be an important part of the healing process for survivors to be heard, believed or get justice whether the case goes to court or not.
- If the survivor is a child, vulnerable or the perpetrator is likely to harm or assault other young or vulnerable people; agencies will follow their safeguarding policies which may include talking to other professionals including the police.