Being part of the Deaf/Hoh community means we support one another and show up for a friend who is in pain. We sit with them in their hurt. But we may not always know what to do, especially if our friend has survived sexual assault.
Do we tell them everything is going to be okay?
Offer a cup of coffee?
Insist they go to therapy?
There isn’t an exact right answer for this kind of circumstance, no sign that will instantly make it go away, and certainly no manual for what works best for everyone. It can feel discouraging. But there’s still ways we can help our friends, and since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, here are some suggestions for what to do when a friend confides they’ve been sexually assaulted.
· Let them share their story (if they’re ready). Not everyone will feel this way, but if your friend wants to share their story, let them. And if your past trauma makes this too difficult, share your boundaries upfront.
· Remind them it’s not their fault. Sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter if they were drinking alcohol, were wearing a short skirt, or had previously been sexually active with their perpetrator. None of that matters, period. Check in with your friend to make sure they know and truly believe that this was not their fault.
Guide them towards resources available. According to Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. (n.d.). Sexual Violence in the Deaf Community, only 5% of Deaf rape survivors seek support and guidance from crisis or counseling centers. Here at Thrive Together, we want to ensure that all survivors of rape have access to, and trust towards, professional help. We’ve compiled resources in this post: https://www.thrivetogethertoday.org/post/sexual-assault-resources. Send the link to your friend or offer to take them to Thrive to connect to help in person.
· Encourage them to report: Another staggering statistic from the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault is that only 5% of Deaf rape survivors report their assaults. If your friend is unsure about how or where to report, Thrive is an excellent resource for the Deaf community in Iowa.