How You Can Help Someone Recovering From Sexual Abuse

Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
There's a moment in HBO's original film The Tale, where one of the characters, Bill (Common), discovers that his fiancée, Jennifer (Laura Dern), was sexually abused by a 40-year-old man when she was 13, and confronts her about the reality of it.
"That's rape," he says. "That's illegal [...] I don't want you to justify it."
Jennifer, who's still reckoning with the fact that she was sexually abused, immediately goes on the defensive, telling Bill that she's trying to figure it out and that it was "complicated."
"I am not a victim," she tells him. "I don't need you or anybody to call me a victim."
The rest of that interaction doesn't go well — Jennifer ends up overwhelmed by the conversation, telling him to leave their shared apartment to give her space.
But, even if he may not have approached the situation very carefully, Bill was trying to help, and that isn't a bad thing. It's just that sometimes people don't know what to do or say. If you know someone trying to heal from assault, the main thing to remember is that recovery is possible, even if it's not an easy process, and you can support a loved one as they heal.
Ahead, we've outlined a few things you should know if you want to help a loved one recover from sexual abuse.
Based on the filmmaker's own story, THE TALE is an investigation into one woman's memory as she is forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. THE TALE will also be available in the US on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand from May 26th onwards. It will be shown on Sky Atlantic in the UK (date TBC). More info and full list of nonprofit partners can be found at thetalemovie.com.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.

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