Background on Supportive Relationships
What are supportive relationship strategies?
- Supportive relationships strategies increase social support to prevent or reduce sexual assault through programs, events or activities involving individuals, organizations and communities.
- Formal and informal relationships can affect the likelihood that individuals will engage in activities to prevent or reduce sexual assault. Formal relationships may include advice from a health care provider or participation in a support group for victims of sexual assault, and informal support may involve talking to friends or family members.
- These strategies may increase the information individuals have about sexual assault prevention [informational support], provide opportunities to share experiences and feelings [emotional support], offer role models [appraisal support] or include supportive services [tangible support].
- Supportive relationships strategies also help by having strength in numbers as individuals work with others to make changes in themselves, their organizations or their communities.
- These different types of support may be provided through involvement with
- individuals, such as family members, friends, co-workers or neighbors;
- organizations, such as schools, worksites, health care facilities or faith-based organizations; or
- community groups and members, such as advocacy organizations or community leaders.
- Supportive relationships strategies can:
- help to build awareness of the problem of sexual assault in an organization or community;
- provide information to help identify perpetrators in the community or services available to victims in the community;
- increase the likelihood that victims will use the services offered in the community; and
- improve individual behaviors related to prevention or reduction of sexual assault.
How can I use supportive relationship to improve sexual assault prevention?
- Supportive relationship strategies may be group discussions about challenges or ways to deal with sexual assault by victims and their families.
- Supportive relationships may be provided in the form of face-to-face interactions, telephone calls, email or through interactive web-based systems. These strategies may include specific information as part of each call or face-to-face session, or may be more open ended and responsive to the specific needs of the individual.
- These strategies may be directed to the individual, such as a victim, or the individual’s support system including family, friends or co-workers.
- Supportive relationships strategies are successful for many reasons:
- Individuals can ask questions or clarify what they have been told.
- Those providing support can also provide referrals and resources to assist the individual.
- Longer-term relationships can help to sustain behavior change over time.
What are the different strategies to prevent sexual assault?
- Increase school-based support for sexual assault prevention. For example, schools have worked with parents of young children to provide informational support to increase awareness of child sexual abuse and increase parent-child communication around sexual abuse prevention.
- Increase community support for sexual assault prevention. For example, hotlines or crisis centers can be created for those with questions about sexual assault, those who need to report having been assaulted or those who are concerned they will sexually assault others.
- Increase peer support for those who have experienced or are at risk for sexual assault and/or their family and friends. For example, some have created peer education groups for college students to respond to questions about sexual assault prevention.
What do I need to know to develop supportive relationships strategies?
- These strategies can be very successful when the support is tailored to the individual’s needs. In order to provide tailored advice to the individual, the person providing the support has to determine the individual’s characteristics, strengths and challenges.
- Supportive relationships strategies may include an assessment of existing behaviors or the environment as well as a discussion of challenges, benefits and advice for creating and maintaining change over time.
- Supportive relationship strategies work best when the advice also takes into account the person’s gender, age, language, race or ethnicity, and other cultural factors. For example, parents of young children will have different needs for support than those of college students. Parents of young men may benefit from different information than the parents of young women. Young children may be encouraged not to talk to strangers while college students may be advised to walk in groups at night on or around campus.
- An individual’s readiness to change suggests that individuals may need different kinds of interventions to help them obtain sexual assault prevention supports depending on how ready they are to change their behaviors. Supportive relationships may be particularly important when people are ready to obtain sexual assault prevention services or resources. For example, supportive relationships can help to reinforce these decisions or behaviors that are changing.
Who do I work with to create supportive relationships strategies?
- To get help with your supportive relationships strategies, you may want to work with the following individuals or groups:
- civic and community organizations
- community coalitions
- health departments
- health care facilities, such as clinics or hospitals
- researchers and evaluators
- senior/independent living facilities
- faith-based organizations
- neighborhood organizations and community members
- metropolitan centers
- media, such as newspaper, billboards, television or radio
- communications or advertising agencies
- celebrities and professional athletes
- policy-makers and community leaders
- advocacy organizations, such as domestic violence or child abuse support groups