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‘Something happened…’
1 in 6 women, 1 in 33 men, and 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have experienced sexual violence (RAINN, 2016). These startling statistics reveal the likelihood of a friend, co-worker, or family member possibly opening up to you with the statement above when reaching out for help regarding their sexual assault. Below are some tips to assist you in providing a healing response to a survivor of sexual assault.

Validating Responses to Survivors

  • It’s not your fault.
      Shame and guilt are common responses to sexual violence.
      A simple statement that it is not the survivor’s fault allows a person
      to continue to process the trauma that has occurred.


  • I believe you.
      Perpetrators try to have power and control over survivors and as
      a means to keep control will often tell survivors if they speak about
      their abuse no one will believe them.


  • Are you open to receiving medical attention?
      A rape kit can be collected within 96 hours of the sexual assault.
      However, even after this time, medical attention is important to conduct
      tests and receive necessary medical treatment.


  • You are not alone.
      Sexual violence comes with layers of silence. Telling someone that
      they have support can encourage them to continue to process the assault.

RAINN. “How to Respond To a Survivor.” 2016.

Anger, anxiety, and depression are a few responses that you might have after hearing a sexual assault survivor’s story. It is important to be aware of your own emotions and to try and maintain a normal routine which is important for your emotional well-being during a stressful time. After someone has opened up to you about their sexual assault, it can be helpful to refer them to seek mental health therapy to continue to heal. If you realize that you have been affected by hearing their story, attending mental health therapy for yourself can be beneficial.
It is important that both a survivor and a survivor’s support person continue to talk about the trauma that has occurred and reaching out to a mental health professional in a confidential, non-judgmental environment can be a helpful place to begin.
Source: RAINN. Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network. 2016.
Stephanie Cerula, LPCC, NCC
Clinical Counselor

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The Behavioral Wellness Group is a counseling center providing therapy and behavioral health services and assessment including chemical dependency/drug addiction treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and other therapies. We also provide mental health or psychological assessments, and psychological,educational and bariatric testing. Providing services to the following communities in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake County: Cleveland, Ashtabula, Beachwood, Chardon, Concord, Eastlake, Euclid, Fairport, Geneva, Grand River, Highland Heights, Kirtland, Leroy, Lyndhurst, Madison, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Painesville, Pepper Pike, Perry, Russell, Solon, South Euclid, Thompson, Wickliffe, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, and Willowick, from our offices in Mentor, Ohio.