Q- Someone I know just disclosed to me that they’ve been abused… what do I do?
The single most important thing that you can do for a survivor is to believe them. Just knowing that you believe them, for many survivors, is enough.
Remember that it took a lot of courage for your loved one to disclose their experience. Acknowledge that. Let them know that you can only imagine how tough it was to talk about the abuse, and thank them for trusting you with such sensitive information.
You’re not an expert, so don’t feel pressure to give advice. Instead, be honest and let them know that while you may not know what to do, you are there to figure it out WITH them. Offer to do some searches online for hotlines and local sexual assault centers (centers.rainn.org has a great search directory); you can take it a step further and offer to call the hotline with them, or to accompany them on a visit to a sexual assault center.
Q- I’m a beauty professional, not a counselor. How can I help survivors?
We probably don’t have to tell you this, but in your line of work, you transform lives everyday. While your impact may center around your client’s appearance, the positive change you make doesn’t stop there. And it shouldn’t.
With the proper tools, you can leverage your relationships with your clients to inspire hope and to reaffirm the power and strength that exists within them. We encourage professionals to do the following:
Become a Vanede Ambassador, and host one or more workshops about sexual assault and/or domestic violence in your shop.
Get trained on effective communication strategies.
Do an inventory on the sexual assault centers and domestic violence shelters in your community; include their materials and information in your shop for anyone that may need it.
Q- How do I know if I’ve been abused?
It’s really important that no one defines your experience for you.
Sexual assault refers to a host of different unwanted experiences that can range anywhere from touching to penetration. No one experience is less “valid”, less “serious”, less “traumatic”, or less worthy of compassion and assistance than the other. Your experience, no matter how you choose to define it, is valid. While the legal definitions may vary, the way you experience the incident is what matters most. If you did not consent to intimacy using your words (“yes”, I want to” etc.), if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if you were asleep or passed out - then it’s possible that what you experienced was in fact sexual assault.
It’s also important to add that freezing and not saying “no” does not equal consent. Freezing (rather than fighting back) is a very common response, and should not be discredited.