5 Ways to be There for Sexual Assault Survivors

by Simone Beres, 2019 Teen Line Voice Award Recipient

Simone Beres started her Teen Line journey in the Summer of 2016. For the past three years Teen Line has greatly benefited from Simone’s compassion and empathy while working on the hotline. “Listening to the diverse lives of teens across the globe has taught me that, through our differences, we can all find a way to relate .” In addition to being a talented listener, Simone uses her powerful voice and experiences as a sexual assault survivor, as an outreach speaker. “I used my voice as a speaker at the LAPD. There, I shared my story of sexual assault with hundreds of training teen cadets to provide awareness and gave them the words I wished I’d heard: ‘It is not your fault’.” Simone has continued sexual assault advocacy in her community and has shared with us her top 5 ways to be there for someone who has survived sexual assault.

1. Remind them that this was not their fault. The unhealthy behavior survivors exhibit after being sexually assaulted is often questioning what they did wrong or could have done better to stop it. This puts a lot of blame on victims of abuse which could lead to future relationship trust issues, loss of self-esteem and even depression.

2. Try to encourage them to make their own legal decisions It is very easy for a parent or friend to insist going to the police after an assault to get “justice”, yet for many survivors this only recreates a horrific event for them that they have to relive again and explain to police officers that may unintentionally blame them as well. It’s critical to give them support in whatever decision they make legally.

3. Respect their privacy If someone has opened up and told you that they have been sexually assaulted, it is not an invitation to ask invasive questions such as “how did they assault you” or “how forceful were they”? This could only trigger a victim more and cause them to become silent. If they wish to open up about details of their assault it should be their own idea to do so.

4. If they are not sure they have been assaulted, remind them about consent. Just because someone does not verbally scream “No!” And push a person away forcefully doesn’t mean that they weren’t consenting. If they say words like “I’m not sure”, “I’m not ready yet”, push their hand away lightly or even give a hint of doubt in one’s actions or words then that person has not consented, and any sexual action of another person is not permitted. I have many friends who never knew they were assaulted until they looked back on what consent really is. It’s so important we teach everyone that real consent is hearing an enthusiastic “Yes I want to do this”.

5. Give them time to heal It took me a year to open up to my parents about what happened and several weeks before a told my best friends. I needed that time in order to handle painful questions my parents or friends might ask, believe that it was not my fault and ultimately become an activist for other victims like myself. Two years ago, when an outreach coordinator and RA asked if I had anything I’d like to share at the LAPD, it had been a year since my assault and because of this I was ready to open up to my parents and the cadets at the LAPD. Because I had time to heal, I was ready to help others do the same.

In addition to being an advocate for sexual assault survivors, Simone also has a deep passion for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. “Last year, after three students took their own lives at my school, I helped organize a benefit concert with my show choir called ‘Project Listen’ where we raised mental health awareness and thousands of dollars for Teen Line.” A clip of the event can be viewed below.

Simone’s commitment to Teen Line went above and beyond. She was an amazing listener, she volunteered for outreach opportunities, lead a fundraiser for Teen Line and was available to help for special events. Below are pictures of Simone and other teens at Avery Dennison designing Teen Line merchandise.

Simone demonstrated extraordinary bravery in sharing her story, for the first time, in front of 600 LAPD cadets and dozens of sworn officers.  She was less concerned with how difficult it might be to talk about her experience and more interested in how her story could potentially help others.  She is a kind, empathetic, and sincere individual whose desire to help others came through on the hotline and in person for outreach activities. Teen Line was lucky to have her service for the past 3 years. 

Robyn Kures LMFT, Former Teen Line Outreach Coordinato


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