Since the 1970's, advocates in Washington State have supported survivors and encouraged communities to work to end sexual assault. Advocacy for survivors of sexual assault has many dimensions, but is rooted in assisting each survivor in their healing process. Self-determination and autonomy, feeling heard, and social support are important factors in healing that advocates can provide.
Advocates provide support in the following ways:
- Crisis intervention
- Explores coping with symptoms
- Normalizes and validates
- Provides information, options, and resources
- Provides psychoeducation about sexual assault
- Identifies and responds to cognitive distortions
- Broad focus on all potential elements of victimization
Advocacy can take place in a variety of environments, with a survivors victimized across the lifespan, and throughout varying stages of a survivor’s healing process.
Some examples of what advocacy can look like includes, but is not limited to:
- a hotline call,
- meeting someone at a hospital for a sexual assault forensic exam,
- explaining a legal process,
- assisting a survivor with basic needs like safe housing or maintaining employment,
- helping to navigate sexual assault or misconduct processes in a campus, detention, or residential facility.
Advocacy is provided by community-based programs and these advocates hold privilege to maintain confidential communication and records with the survivors they work unless required by mandatory reporting requirements in the case of a minor or vulnerable adult.
The core principles of trauma informed advocacy are:
- Safety: Advocates focus on emotional as well as physical safety. Safe relationships are consistent, predictable, nonviolent, non-shaming, non-blaming, and respectful.
- Trust: Advocates ensure survivors have clear expectation of services by maintaining appropriate boundaries, being consistent and trustworthy, and holding their story and information confidential.
- Choice: Advocates prioritize survivor choice and decision-making; supporting a survivor’s control over their own healing journey.
- Collaboration: Advocates share power with survivors, working together toward the survivor’s intended goals for healing and justice.
- Empowerment: Advocates help identify strengths, prioritize building skills that promote survivor healing and growth. Advocates provide active listening.
- Cultural Competence: Advocates are sensitive to the role of culture in lived experience, healing routes, and decision-making.