PARCS provides counselling for parents/carers of children (aged up to 18 years) who have been sexually abused. The sessions take place at our centre in Portsmouth and provide a space for parents/carers to talk about the impact of their child’s disclosure and to explore how they might best offer support. Please contact the office (023 9266 9513) if you would like to refer yourself.
Support for partners
PARCS provides emotional support for partners/significant of adults who have experienced sexual abuse at any time in their life. The support is offered via our helplines that are open on open on a Monday (1-3pm) and Wednesday and Friday (7 – 10 pm). The Women’s help line: 023 9266 9511 and the Men’s line 023 9266 9516. There is an answer machine outside of these hours.
Supporting an adult survivor of sexual abuse can be daunting. You might be afraid of saying or doing the “wrong thing”. The most important thing is to listen to what the person has to say even if it’s difficult for you to hear. You might have lots of questions but try not to interrupt. Sexual abuse and rape or any kind of sexual abuse can make a person feel powerless and out of control and it is important to resist the temptation to ‘take over’ for example by doing things that you think are best. Instead support the person to explore their feelings and options and to make their own decisions. Doing things for a survivor (like making an appointment on their behalf without checking that’s what they want first) can end up making things worse, even when you were only trying to help.
Many survivors find it difficult to trust others because of their experiences, especially if they’ve not been believed in the past. At the same time, if someone you know has told you that they were abused or raped they’ve put trust in you. It might not be easy for them to start talking about experiences they might have stayed silent about for a long time. It might be difficult because their abuser told them not to tell or threatened them. They might feel ashamed or responsible in some way. They might also be traumatized.
Reassure the person, respect their wishes and be patient. Believe them. It’s important to believe what they’re saying even if it’s difficult for you to hear. No-one asks to be abused, assaulted or raped. No survivor should ever be blamed for not preventing their own abuse. The blame lies with the perpetrator.
It takes a lot of strength and courage to survive and talk about experiences of sexual abuse. Acknowledge that. Don’t ask why they didn’t say anything sooner. They might have tried to tell before and been ignored or not believed. They might have been threatened or too scared to say anything. They might have felt ashamed or blocked out events that are too painful to think about.
It’s important to be accepting of the way they are reacting, even if it’s not what you were expecting or not the way you think you’d respond to a similar experience. It’s best to get rid of any ideas you have of how a person who has been raped or sexually abused should behave and accept their reaction as valid. Don’t ask them why they didn’t fight back. This will only make them feel judged or even blamed for what happened. People react in different ways. It’s very common to freeze, or for bodies to flop or go limp. Listening is the most important thing you can offer.
Remember to take care of yourself as well. Supporting someone can be difficult and bring up all sorts of thoughts and feelings. Our helpline is here to support you. We will not ask for details of what has happened but will provide a listening ear. We can also provide information regarding other support services if needed.