DO believe what he has to say
Even if he sometimes doubts himself, even if his memories are vague, even if what he tells you sounds too extreme, please believe him! Survivors don’t make up stories of sexual abuse or rape. Let him know that you are open to hearing anything he may wish to share and although what you hear may be painful and upsetting for you, you are willing to enter those difficult places with him to and to receive his words with respect.
DO be clear that he’s not to blame
No one asks to be abused or raped. He didn’t want to be abused and he had to do whatever it took to survive. The blame should always be put back as the fault of the abusers no matter how he feels he is to blame.
DO try to understand
Listen and understand why he felt unable to prevent it from happening. He may have been frozen by fear or have been suspecting and trusting, or he may have been threatened or physically attacked and may have realistically feared the worse would happen if he resisted. You don’t have to understand exactly what he’s going through, just saying you will genuinely try is a fantastic support. Just be there to listen when he wants to speak. If he doesn’t want to talk then respect his decision not to. Express your compassion. If you have feelings of outrage, compassion, pain for their pain… share them, tell him. There is probably nothing more comforting than a genuine human response. Just be careful your feelings don’t overwhelm his.
DO listen to his reasons for previously not disclosing
Listen to his reasons for not telling you immediately, or only just telling you now. He may have been scared, ashamed or embarrassed. Perhaps he chose to think it through first, or even chose to talk to other people less personally involved first, maybe he wanted to protect you from the upset of knowing. Maybe he’s only just realised it or admitted it to himself. Whatever the reason, the important thing to concentrate on now is that he trust you enough to tell you. Isn’t he courageous!
DO help him feel safe
Help him to feel safe and take part in things again, but at his own pace and in ways he feels best. Knowing that he could speak to you about feeling unsafe and ask for your companionship when he needs it will be reassuring as he tackles difficult things and situations.
DO distinguish between “if only” and guilt
Help him distinguish between wishing it had never happened – in terms of wishing he hadn’t been there at the time, etc; and it being his fault. You know this but IT WAS NOT HIS FAULT, however much he may feel it was or say it was. Remind him it wasn’t.
DO reassure and remind him that you’re there
Reassure him that he has your full support and tell him that you’re more than happy give him the time he needs to work it through. Make it clear that you will be around to talk to now or in the future and help him to trust you by not pushing him into expressing things. Remember: he needs his own space and may vary between dependency and aloofness, all typical manners of coping.
DO remember about you
Try to remember that you may need support too and in order to continue supporting your partner, counselling and support services are available for you too.