In an Emergency 24/7
From any campus phone,
call 4300 or 911
From a mobile phone,
call SMC dispatch
If off-campus, call 911
We recognize how widespread traumatic experiences that result from sexual violence are in our society, and how those experiences impact one’s health and well-being. Survivors of sexual violence can experience anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, relationship concerns, academic related concerns, sleep difficulty and substance use.
Traumatic memories can be emotionally loaded that even the smallest of reminders can be crippling. Multiple things can trigger trauma such as sights, sounds, smells, people and objects. Responses to trauma will also be affected by cultural differences, previous victimization experiences, responses of service providers, recovery environment and levels of social support. Survivors often feel as though they have to hide a part of themselves due to feelings of blames, shame, guilt, fear and disconnection.
How to support someone who has experienced trauma
If someone you know comes to you and tells you they have been sexually assaulted. You do not have to have all the answers. Here is what you can do:
- Believe them
- Make sure they are safe
- Remain supportive
- Guide them to campus resources
- Predictability: Everyone loves surprises! Not. Trauma survivors often prefer predictability because that feels safer.
- Space: Allow time for the survivor to calm down and take perspective. Remember that trauma survivors often have difficulty regulating emotions and take longer to calm down. Maybe support self-soothing, for example suggesting you both go for a walk, maybe stay well clear!
- Perspective: Be aware when ‘the past is intruding into the present.’ Don’t take responsibility for what is not yours… gently. Remember there is no such thing as ‘over-reacting’ – the reaction is in direct proportion to the pain experienced in the past rather than in response to what’s happening now.
- Recalibration: Rid ‘over-reacting,’ ‘over-sensitive,’ ‘over’-anything from your vocabulary.
- Attribution: Don’t refer to ‘your upbringing, your problem, issues, behavior.’ This sounds like judgment or at the very least like the trauma survivor is somehow broken or the problem. Call it for what it is – trauma.
- Support: Be kind, loving, patient… But empathetically set limits – you have needs too! It’s okay to talk about when the survivor’s reactions hurt you too. “I love you and I understand how scared/angry/sad you are… and it’s not okay to hurt me.” Whatever our trauma history, we must all learn to be accountable when we hurt others.
- Reciprocity: Give what you also need to receive: listening, empathy and empowerment. Make sure that you are getting these things somewhere in your life. If the survivor is your friend or romantic partner, be sure that there is a two-way street. However much as you love someone who has experienced trauma, it is unhealthy if you become a savior, therapist, or martyr.
- Choice. Big trigger when a survivor is denied these. Confer, collaborate cooperate. Trauma is about getting hurt when you had no power or control over the situation, and it is immensely activating when the trauma survivor experiences that powerlessness again. If you want one way to ensure one of the fight/flight/freeze/collapse survival responses, taking away control is the way to do it!
The following videos explain more about trauma and share personal stories and how to help a survivor
Trigger warning, some of the content may be trigger traumatic emotional responses for some. If you need to talk with someone there are experts who understand the impact of trauma and can provide you with support.
Jason’s Story – Survivor of Sexual Assault
Alison’s Story – Survivor of Sexual Assault
SMC Confidential Support Services
If you need emotional support or guidance, you may choose to speak with one of SMC’s confidential resources or community-based confidential resources. Confidential resources can provide survivors with information about support services and their options.
Center for Wellness and Wellbeing
Off Campus Confidential Support Services
The following community based organizations provide crisis intervention and advocacy, and post-acute trauma treatment therapy services to survivors.
RAPE TREATMENT CENTER SANTA MONICA-UCLA
CENTER FOR PACIFIC ASIAN FAMILY
PEACE OVER VIOLENCE, RAPE & BATTERING