How to Help a Woman in Your Life Who’s Been Sexually Assaulted

Especially if you’re a man. You can help more than you realize.

Merre Larkin

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A hand reaching out to two hands visible, being obliterated by a strong wave
Photo by Sue Carroll on Unsplash

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, at any time, and at any place. This is a fact.

These are also facts:

  • The majority of sexual assaults that occur happen to women.
  • The majority of the perpetrators are male.

I’m going to keep this simple and hope that the information I impart here can be adapted to situations that are more complicated than what is assumed here for brevity’s sake.

Sexual assault awareness is key

At the beginning of the new millennium, more than twenty years ago now, I worked at a women’s center on a college campus, as a program assistant and then as director.

During my time there, I started a program that was meant to train male students to talk to other male students about sexual assault, providing awareness.

We couldn’t get enough men interested in talking to other men. So instead, the program became students talking to other students.

We were able to train a passionate coed group of students to provide sexual assault awareness across campus. We adapted the presentation to the audience, whether it be all-male, all-female, or coed.

Our first presentation was scheduled with a fraternity. I had no idea how it would go. The fraternity was required to host the presentation due to an incident that had occurred. I knew we’d confront a defensive and possibly hostile audience.

As we introduced ourselves, it was nerve-wracking, even for me, but especially for the students who were assisting me. Some of the students were sexual assault survivors themselves, wanting to make a difference on their campus.

Our presentation was structured to eliminate blame. It provided an understanding of what constituted sexual assault, how to help a sexual assault survivor, and how to communicate before, during, and after sexual encounters.

The men of the fraternity relaxed into the presentation as we did group exercises with them, provided statistics and definitions, offered a…

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Merre Larkin

Writer. Life coach. Educator. Marathoner. Survivor. Avid reader. Here to share, here to learn.