It is common for a spouse, partner, or other family member to experience a broad spectrum of feelings about the assault and its effect on the person they care about. Such feelings may include shock, disbelief, rage, helplessness, and even resentment. If your spouse or partner has been sexually victimized, you may be unsure about how to help him or her through this difficult time. Spouses and partners often respond by engaging in “over protection” of the victim, and attempt to influence or control the victim’s subsequent daily behaviors, actions, or choices. Although well-intended, this approach does not typically provide relief to the victim. Instead, attempts to control a victim reinforces their already compromised sense of control and may inhibit the ability to advance in the healing process.
Instead, you can take several constructive steps to help your spouse or partner.
- First, you must recognize that a sexual assault is a crisis for everyone who cares for the victim. It is very important for you to acknowledge your feelings about the assault and to seek help in dealing with them when necessary. There are many counseling resources available through the military services that can help you confront the often complex and wide range of emotions you may experience. By seeking help you will increase the likelihood of everyone involved achieving recovery and emotional healing.
- Second, let your spouse or partner know that you support him or her in how he or she decides to approach recovery. The victim must make his or her own decisions regarding who is told about the assault, what they are told, and when this information is to be disclosed. By enouraging independent decisions, you will provide valuable support to him or her through the recovery process. This sense of independence and choice generally allows a victim to symbolically regain some of the control that he or she lost after the assault, and reinforces basic trust in his or her relationship with you.
- Third, educate yourself about how the military responds to sexual assaults. You can more effectively support your spouse or partner in making key decisions if you clearly understand how the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) sexual assault reporting and response processes work. Your local Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) can assist you by explaining the process of reporting and accessing services available to the victim. In addition, he or she can direct you to resources that may assist you as you embark on you own healing process.
To find out more information on reporting, visit http://www.myduty.mil/
Or contact Military OneSource 24/7 to find your local SARC at:
Overseas Collect: 1-484-530-5908