Parents of Survivors
It can be particularly hard to hear that your loved one has been sexually assaulted. Be prepared to be more closely involved with your family member’s recovery than others, as the survivor may need help financially for therapy, transportation, or someone to talk to regularly. However, also remember that for some survivors, it’s easier to talk to friends than family about sexual violence. Don’t take this as a judgment on your relationship. Respond to the survivor’s needs, but don’t impose your assistance.
It’s often especially hard for survivors to tell parents about violence because it often involves an acknowledgement of sexual relationships with others (since much violence happens between people in an existing sexual relationship). Do not victim-blame or tie the violence to other sexual choices.
For some families, discussing sex and sexuality at all is extremely difficult. Some families may have never discussed sex before. Be supportive and treat your loved one with respect and maturity.
If your child tells you about being sexually assaulted and asks for therapy, help them research therapists in your area. If you are concerned about money, many rape crisis centers offer free counseling.
If you find out from someone else that your child has been sexually assaulted, tread carefully. If you broach the subject, make sure you allow your child to define the experience in their own terms. Be careful about using words like “rape” or “sexual assault” in the conversation; try to use the same words they apply to their experience.
Remember that some survivors don’t choose to confide in their families — and for a variety of reasons.
WVU Peer Advocates
Family who wish to support a survivor can contact a student WVU Peer Advocate to discuss options and on- and off-campus resources while remaining anonymous. A WVU Peer Advocate can be reached by contacting one of the Title IX Education Specialists:
While the WVU Peer Advocates and Title IX Education Specialists serve as anonymous resources for all students, faculty and staff, please note that under most circumstances they cannot discuss specific cases with third parties – such as friends and family – due to the students’ rights under FERPA.
Students at West Virginia University and its divisional campuses (“WVU” or “University”) benefit from the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. This Act, with which West Virginia University intends to comply fully, was designed to protect the privacy of education records, to establish the right of students to inspect and review their education records, and to provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate or misleading data through informal and formal hearings. A more detailed explanation of rights afforded to students by FERPA can be found at http://ferpa.wvu.edu/policy.
- “Help a Loved One” from RAINN
- “Self-Care for Friends and Family Members” from RAINN
- In addition, family members and friends of survivors are welcome to use the RAINN phone hotline and online hotline, as well as seek counseling through rape crisis centers at 1-800-656-HOPE or https://ohl.rainn.org/online/
- Pandora’s Aquarium. There is also a forum within this site for secondary survivors to discuss how to best help survivors and take care of themselves.
- “20 Things Never to Say to a Friend Who Confides in you that They’ve Been Sexually Assaulted” at Feministe
- “What to Say if Your Best Friends Tells You She Was Rape” at xoJane