Self-care for someone supporting a victim

Steps supporters can take to ensure their wellbeing while supporting a victim of sexual violence

Good self-care enables you to better care for others, especially if you are supporting someone who has survived sexual violence.

  • Maintain your lifestyle. It can be difficult to stay emotionally strong if you are mostly focusing on the sexual assault. Maintaining your lifestyle and continuing to do what you enjoy is important for your emotional wellness. If you enjoy painting, cooking, exercising, spending time with friends, or other activities, keep them up. It may seem challenging to make time to do these activities, but they can be helpful self-care strategies in the long run.
  • Reach out and talk about it. It’s normal to have a difficult time processing the sexual assault of someone you care about. It can continue to be difficult as time goes on and the victim/survivor begins the healing process. You can call the SMRC at 1-844-750-1648 to speak with a trained professional who understands what you’re going through for support, options or have questions answered.
  • Make plans. Sometimes talking about what happened can help you cope with your feelings, and other times it can make you feel more stuck. Make plans that give you a break from talking or thinking about the assault. It could mean starting a new hobby or revisiting one you already enjoy. You could go to dinner with a group of friends who understand this isn't time to discuss what happened. Maybe you prefer a solo activity, like going on long walks. Let this be a time where you can take your mind off the assault.
  • Take time to relax. Relaxation looks different for everyone. You might consider meditation or deep breathing exercises.  Maybe journaling helps you sort through your thoughts and find peace.  Build time into your day for these moments of relaxation so that you don’t skip out.
  • Understand the signs of vicarious trauma.  For someone who is providing continued support for a co-worker/friend/someone they supervise, an alleged offender, or for anyone who has been impacted by sexual violence, it is important to be aware of the signs of vicarious trauma, which can include:
    • becoming cynical or losing hope
    • avoiding social or work contact
    • becoming fearful and overprotective because the world is seen to be dangerous
    • setting rigid boundaries in relationships or, displaying a lack of boundaries and rescuing others
    • abandoning spiritual beliefs

Self-care isn’t always easy to take on by yourself.  To speak with someone who is trained to help, contact Mental Health / Injury resources.

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