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My girlfriend is a sexual assault survivor. I want to support her, but it is difficult for both of us. It often affects our sex life as well. How can I cope with this and be a support for her?

First, it is brave and wonderful for your girlfriend to trust you with her story. It says a lot about you and your relationship’s strength. Dealing with an assault is difficult for the survivor and for friends and family who want to support them. It is a great idea to find resources that can help both you and your girlfriend.

The best thing you can do is be there. There isn’t a rule book or guide on how to support a survivor because everyone deals with things differently. Here are some basic things you can do initially, though. First, believe her. It is incredibly brave for her to share this with you, which says a great deal about her trust in you. Second, validate her feelings. For some it is just a difficult roadblock, but for others it is earth-shattering. Either way, reassure her that this doesn’t change how you feel about her and that it was not her fault. There are great resources about this from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

Survivors of sexual assault can cope in a variety of ways, none of which are wrong. There are many resources to help with the process of healing from the trauma which could be helpful. Two resources on campus are SARA and counseling services. SARA could offer support in whatever way feels most helpful. If you just want someone to listen, need some grounding skills or any other resources available, SARA is there to support you. Counselors on campus can also be a helpful resource. You can make appointments together or separately to talk through some of what you’re going through. There are also secondary survivors’ (family, friend or partner of the survivor) support groups which you might find helpful. These groups provide a community of people who are dealing with many of the same difficulties.

About your sex life: patience. Try gently talking to your girlfriend about your concerns. Maybe it is something specific that triggers her (something that sets off a memory, often traumatic). Maybe she needs more affirmation from you that you want her. Each survivor is different; if she is ready, it might be worthy of a conversation. While sex and intimacy are important parts of your relationship, it could take time for your girlfriend to be ready to be intimate with someone again. Focus on other parts of your relationship and yourself that need attention right now. Work on building trust with her. Work on small acts of intimacy and romance instead of sex. Take up a new hobby together. In the end, be willing to let your girlfriend lead a little.

It is incredibly difficult to work through an assault. It makes you question what you thought you knew about yourself, it is emotional and most of all, it is terrifying. The event itself is horrible and the healing to be done afterward is often just as difficult, but worth it. It is a lifelong healing process, but it does get better. Having healthy relationships and a support system to help you through it a crucial to your success. It sounds like having you might be one of the best things right now. It will be heartbreaking to watch someone you love go through this, but being there is one of the best things you can do.

— XO, Millie

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1 Comment
  • saijanai

    The article elsewhere in this publication can give you a hint to what might help: Transcendental Meditation is known to reverse the effects of PTSD and other severe trauma in an extremely short period of time (days to months, depending on the person, not the degree of trauma) and continued practice can keep symptoms under control for the rest of your life, as Captain Yellin attests to in his story:

    https://thesimpsonian.com/24903/news/view-photos-veterans-day-ceremony-2016/

    [Reply]

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