How to Help a Loved One Who is Struggling with Sexual Assault

Victims tell their story when they're ready to. How you can help. KMSP Fox 9 Reporter Iris Perez reports

ST. PAUL, Minn. — With several people in power being accused of sexual assault and harassment, many people are looking to reach out to the victims.

They are looking for a way to help.

“It reminds all of us of whatever past traumas and experiences we’ve had,” Teri Walker McLaughlin says.  She is the executive director with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and Democratic Senator Al Franken remind us.

We all know someone who has faced sexual harassment or survived sexual assault.

“Our friends, our neighbors, our loved ones both as perpetrators and victims and survivors,” Walker said.

Walker says victims tell their story when they are ready to and base the extent of their trauma, in large part, on the first time they break their silence.

“If it’s a good experience, they’re likely going to be able to continue to process,” Walker said. “If it’s not a good experience, they may bury it.”

While survivors may feel empowered by others coming forward, when learning people in power, especially those who have acted as advocates have also committed the crime, profound disappointment may ensue.

“Of course, that again triggers the symptoms the memories of being assaulted abused by someone they trusted,” Psychotherapist Karen Wright said.

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.

At least 94 percent of women who survive sexual violence experience PTSD.

“Isolation, depression, increased sense of hyper vigilance, those are typical symptoms,” Wright said.

Professionals who specialize in survivor support agree that it’s important we listen to victims.

“Let them know that there’s safety here and that we believe them because it’s with great risk that people share their stories,” Walker said.

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