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How can I help a victim of sexual abuse?

Without a doubt healing from a sexual assault is a process and varies from person to person. The harm caused by a sexual assault can have a long-lasting impact, and can be emotionally draining and stressful for a victim of sexual assault. Many victims may feel disempowered, may be in fear, feel guilt and not know what to do. In an effort to help victims and provide guidance to their family or friends to support victims of sexual abuse, the Connecticut Judicial Branch's Office of Victim Services has published helpful information on the issue.

Following a sexual assault or abuse, many victims may be in shock, may not exactly remember what happened and may not want to immediately talk about what happened. They may also get angry easily, or get anxious. It is important for them and their family to know, however, that there are advocates with whom they can talk. These conversations are private and the advocate offers victims a safe place to talk about what happened without judgement. Every person is different on how they will cope. It is important to let the victim talk when they are ready to do so and not push them.

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone at any age. Particularly, when it comes to child sexual abuse, it is important to be aware of changes in the child's behavior, such as sudden changes in sleeping habits, bed wetting, withdrawal and changes in eating habits. Although these could be signs of other issues a child is experiencing, it is important for a parent not to dismiss these indicators. For family members and friends who may be unsure of how to help, it is important to remember to remind the victim that it is not their fault. It is important to remain supportive during this time, but also be sensitive about how the victim feels about being touched.

Those who have been sexually assaulted typically know the perpetrator and it may be awhile before they come forward with who it is. It takes courage to speak and when a victim does and identifies the perpetrator or perpetrators, they can seek justice by filing a lawsuit to hold the abuser accountable for their actions.

Source: Connecticut Judicial Branch, "Information For Victims of Sexual Assault And Their Families," Office of Victim Services, accessed June 8, 2015

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