Protecting Your Friends and How to Respond to a Survivor

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You have a crucial role to play in keeping your friends safe. No matter what the setting, if you see something that doesn’t feel quite right or see someone who might be in trouble, there are some simple things you can do to help out a friend.

Distract. If you see a friend in a situation that doesn’t feel quite right, create a distraction
to get your friend to safety. This can be as simple as joining or redirecting the conversation: suggest to your friend that you leave the party, or ask them to walk you home. Try asking questions like: “Do you want to head to the bathroom with me?” or “Do you want to head to another party – or grab pizza?”

Step in. If you see someone who looks uncomfortable or is at risk, step in. If you feel
safe, find a way to de-escalate the situation and separate all parties involved. Don’t be shy
about directly asking the person if they need help or if they feel uncomfortable.

Enlist others. You don’t have to go it alone. Call in friends or other people in the area
as reinforcements to help defuse a dangerous situation and get the at-risk person home safely. There is safety in numbers.

Keep an eye out. Use your eyes and ears to observe your surroundings. If you
see someone who has had too much to drink or could be vulnerable, try to get them to a safe place. Enlist friends to help you. Even if you weren’t around when the assault occurred, you can still support a friend in the aftermath.

How to Respond to a Survivor

When someone you care about tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted or abused, it can be a lot to handle. A supportive reaction can make all the difference, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Encouraging words and phrases avoid judgment and show support for the survivor. Consider these phrases:

  1. “I’m sorry this happened.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.
  2. “It’s not your fault.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
  3. “I believe you.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.
  4. “You are not alone.” Remind the survivor that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story. Remind them there are other people in their life who care and that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they recover from the experience.
  5. “Are you open to seeking medical attention?” The survivor might need medical attention, even if the event happened a while ago. You can support the survivor by offering to accompany them or find more information. It’s ok to ask directly, “Are you open to seeking medical care?”
  6. “You can trust me.” If a survivor opens up to you, it means they trust you. Reassure them that you can be trusted and will respect their privacy. Always ask the survivor before you share their story with others. If a minor discloses a situation of sexual abuse, you are required in most situations to report the crime. Let the minor know that you have to tell another adult, and ask them if they’d like to be involved.
  7. “This doesn’t change how I think of you.” Some survivors are concerned that sharing what happened will change the way other people see them, especially a partner. Reassure the survivor that surviving sexual violence doesn’t change the way you think or feel about them.

Continued Support
There’s no timetable when it comes to recovering from sexual violence. If someone trusted you enough to disclose the event, consider the following ways to show your continued support.

  • Check in periodically. The event may have happened a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their story.
  • Avoid judgment. It can be difficult to watch a survivor struggle with the effects of sexual assault for an extended period of time. Avoid phrases that suggest they’re taking too long to recover such as, “You’ve been acting like this for a while now,” or “How much longer will you feel this way?”
  • Remember that the healing process is fluid. Everyone has bad days. Don’t interpret flashbacks, bad days, or silent spells as “setbacks.” It’s all part of the process.
  • Know your resources You’re a strong supporter, but that doesn’t mean you’re equipped to manage someone else’s health. Become familiar with resources you can recommend to a survivor, like the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) and online.rainn.org.

survivor

 

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How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault?

Protection-of-Children-from-Sexual-Offences2Parents are surrounded by messages about child sexual abuse. Talk shows and TV news warn parents about dangers at school, in the home and on the Internet. Despite all the media coverage, parents don’t get much advice about how to talk to their children about sexual abuse and how to prevent it.

Talk to your children about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms.

  • Talking openly and directly abProtection-of-Children-from-Sexual-Offences1out sexuality teaches children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.
  • Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
  • Teach children that some parts of their body are private.
    • Let children know that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care. If someone does need to touch them in those private areas, a parent of trusted caregiver should be there, too.
    • Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, OR if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
  • All children should be told that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable or if someone is touching them in ways that make them uncomfortable and that they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
    • This can lead to some slightly embarrassing situations, such as a child who then says they don’t want give a relative a hug or kiss! Work with your child to find ways to greet people that don’t involve uncomfortable kinds of touch.
    • Talking openly about sexuality and sexual abuse also teaches children that these things don’t need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse is a secret. Let your children know that if someone is touching them or talking to them in ways that make them uncomfortable that it shouldn’t stay a secret.
    • Make sure to tell your child that that they will not get into trouble if they tell you this kind of secret.
  • Don’t try to put all this information into one big “talk” about sex.
    • Talking about sexuality and sexual abuse should be routine conversations.

Be involved in your child’s life.

  • Be interested in your child’s activities.
    • Ask your child about the people they go to school with or play with.
    • If your child is involved in sports, go to games and practices. Get to know the other parents and coaches.
    • If your child is involved in afterschool activities or daycare, ask them what they did during the day.
  • Talk about the media.
    • If your child watches a lot of television or plays video games, watch or play with them.
      • Many TV shows (for example, CSI or Law and Order) show sexual violence of different kinds.
      • Some video games (for example, Grand Theft Auto) allow the user to engage in sexual violence.

    • Use examples from TV or games that you have watched or played together to start up conversations about sexuality and sexual abuse.
  • Know the other adults that your child might talk to.
    • Children sometimes feel that they cannot talk to their parents.
    • Know the other trusted adults in your child’s life.

Be available.

  • Make time to spend with your child.
  • Let your child know that they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
    • Be sure to follow up on this! If your child comes to you with concerns or questions, make time to talk to them.

 

When you empower your child to say “no” to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns, you take critical steps to preventing child sexual abuse.

 

To learn more about child sexual abuse and talk to someone who can help, contact
1-800-656-HOPE or visit: online.rainn.org

 

Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience an array of overwhelming and intense feelings. These may include feelings of fear, guilt, and shame. Abusers have been known to tell children that it is the fault of the child that they are abused, shifting the blame away from the abuser, where it belongs, and placing it on the child. Along with this, abusers may threaten or bribe the child into not speaking up; convincing the child that he or she will never be believed.i The reaction of a survivor’s friends and family to the disclosure of the abuse also has the potential to trigger immense feelings of guilt, same and distrust, particularly if those individuals denied that the abuse was taking place, or chose to ignore it.

While each individual’s experiences and reactions are unique, there are some responses to child sexual abuse that are common to many survivors:—i

  • Low self-esteem or self-hatred
  • Survivors may suffer from depression
  • Guilt, shame and blame
    • Survivors may feel guilt or shame because they made no direct attempt to stop the abuse or because they experienced physical pleasure
  • Sleep disturbances / dblue ribbonisorders
    • Survivors may have trouble sleeping because of the trauma, anxiety or may directly be related to the experience they had as a child; children may be sexually abused in their own beds.
  • Lack of trust for anyone
    • Many survivors were betrayed by the very people they are dependent upon (family, teachers etc.) who cared for them, who insisted they loved them even while abusing them; learning to trust can be extremely difficult under these circumstances.
    • 93% of victims under the age of 18 know their attacker.—-ii
  • Revictimization
    • Many survivors as adults find themselves in abusive, dangerous situations or relationships.
    • Woman who were sexually assaulted before the age of 18 [are] twice as likely to report being raped as adults.—-iii
  • Flashbacks
    • Many survivors re-experience the sexual abuse as if it were occurring at that moment, usually accompanied by visual images of the abuse. These flashes of images are often triggered by an event, action, or even a smell that is reminiscent of the sexual abuse of the abuser.
  • Dissociation
    • Many survivors go through a process where the mind distances itself from the experience because it is too much for the psyche to process at the time. This loss of connection with thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or sense of identity, is a coping mechanism and may affect aspects of a survivor’s functioning.
  • Sexuality / Intimacy
    • Many survivors have to deal with the fact that their first sexual encounter was a result of abuse. Such memories may interfere with the survivor’s ability to engage in sexual relationships, which may bring about feelings of fright, frustration, or being ashamed.

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often adopt coping mechanisms (or survival strategies) to guards against feelings of terror and helplessness that they may have felt as a child. These past feelings can still have influence over the life and present behavior of an adult survivor. Here are some common coping mechanismsi:

  • Grieving / Mourning
    • Many things were — childhood experiences, trust, innocence, relationships with family members. The survivor may feel a deep sadness, jealousy, anger or longing for something never had.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
    • The abuse of substances can act as an escape from the intense waves of feelings, the terror and helplessness.
  • Disordered Eating / Eating Disorders
    • Compulsive control of food intake can be a way of taking back control over the body that was denied during the abuse.
  • Self-injury
    • There are many ways survivors have coped with the feelings that can cause emotional or physical injury on the self. Burning or cutting are some ways for a survivor to relieve intense anxiety, triggered by memories of the abuse

 

Treatment—i
In most instances, the survivor never discussed the abuse with others while it was occurring. In fact, many survivors do not remember the abuse until years after it has occurred, and may never be able to clearly recall it. Usually, after being triggered by a memory, this individual learns how, as an adult, to deal with the effects of the abuse.

It is important to speak with someone, whether it be a friend or counselor, about the abuse and past and current feelings.

Community health centers, mental health clinics and family service centers may have counselors who have worked with survivors before. They may also be able to refer you to a self-help group.

If you are an adult dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse, please remember that you are not responsible for the abuse and that you are not alone. You can overcome the effects the abuse may have on your life. Please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) or visit the Online Hotline. It’s never too late to get help.

i—Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Dr. Carol Boulware, MFT, Ph.D. 2006.http://www.psychotherapist.net/adultsurvivors.html

ii—-U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.

iiiExtent, Nature, and Consequences of Rape Victimization: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey. U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs: National Institute of Justice. 2006. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij

 

This product was supported by grant number 2009-D1-BX-K023 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Our Counselors

Deena Stewart-Hitzke – Will be down every other week for one on one and group therapy.  

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 Provide free counseling for Healing Hands of Arizona

Master of Arts (M.A.), ClinicalCounseling and Applied Psychology

DESCRIPTION OF SOME SERVICES OFFERED/AREAS OF SPECIALTY

  • Coordinate counseling, case management, and advocacy services for adults, 55 and older, related to a history of abuse, neglect, or exploitation in their lives or in the lives of their loved ones.
  • Generate grant and philanthropic funding to expand the provision of services for marginalized older adults, in collaboration with and support of other providers.
  • Foster resiliency, independence, hope, and healing by implementing counseling for empowerment and best practice advocacy models.
  • Work closely with The Atty. General’s office, law enforcement, prosecuting attorney’s offices, victim advocates, the court systems, and multiple nonprofit organizations to develop a coordinated multi-systems community response to the legal, housing, nutritional, medical, emotional, and transportation needs of crime victims, regardless of their desire to pursue justice.
  • Assist crime victims in preparing for court emotionally , accompanying them to both criminal and civil proceedings, and helping them to navigate various Government, court, religious, nonprofit, and corporate institutions.
  • Facilitate support groups to mobilize survivors toward collective action in challenging the status quo, anonymously sharing their experience, strength, and hope.
  • Honor the expertise of survivors by engaging them in the processes of brainstorming resolutions to widespread isolation, experiences of discrimination, and other social and political factors contributing to their vulnerability for abuse, enhancing the protective capacity of older adults through the development of their own initiatives, natural supports, and safety planning.
  • Coordinate professional training for educators, therapists, and public administrators, resulting in survey research that shows enhancements in productivity, quality, and organizational culture.
  • Construct evidence-based practice guides and workbooks, resulting in the increased use of effective interventions and teaching methods.
  • Develop initiatives and grant proposals for the advancement of public education and higher education accessibility, resulting in an increased enrollment and successful completion of coursework.

 

Faye Hoese – Call to make an appointment, (520) 468-6758 mention you found her on Healing Hands of Arizona.

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Provide counseling for children, adolescents, adults, families, couples.

DESCRIPTION OF SOME SERVICES OFFERED/AREAS OF SPECIALTY

  • SPECIALTY AREAS
  1. Children (ages two – eighteen years)
  2. Emotionally Disabled (school special education diagnosis)
  3. Asperger’s Syndrome – skills for school/social success
  4. Behaviorally Challenged
  5. ADHD
  6. School/legal issues including adolescent probation
  7. Victims of Abuse/Neglect
  8. Coping with family transition to include but not limited to:
  9. CPS involvement – removal/reunification/severance
  10. Multiple foster/family placements
  11. Parents in prison – incarceration & release
  12. Parents in military service including combat zones – deployment & return
  13. Divorce
  14. Parents/Families
  15. Parent/child conflict
  16. Parenting & advocating in school for children w/ADHD; Asperger’s; ED; behaviorally
  17. challenged; other special needs
  18. Parenting through transition including but not limited to:
  19. CPS involvement- removal/reunification/severance
  20. Military service including combat zones – deployment & return
  21. Incarceration & release
  22. Divorce
  23. Perpetrators of child abuse/neglect w/ or w/o CPS/legal involvement
  24. Other family member perpetrators of child abuse w/ or w/o CPS/legal involvement
  25. Grief/Loss
  26. Parents/families
  27. Death/disability/chronic/acute illness of child
  28. Loss related to family transition noted above
  29. Children
  30. Death of parent/sibling/close friend/classmate
  31. Loss related to family transition noted above
  32. Disability due to injury
  33. Chronic/acute serious illness
  34. Crisis Assessment/Intervention including but not limited to:
  35. Emergency Room assessment
  36. Suicide prevention/postvention
  37. School/community/familial violence/death/major disruption
  • OTHER COUNSELING SERVICES

Domestic Violence including assessment of risk
General child/family/adult counseling including but not limited to depression & anxiety disorders