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How can I help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?
  • Be there.
    Those close to a survivor can help her/him through the healing process. Know that sexual assault is traumatic and can cause a feeling of loss of control and vulnerability for many survivors. They can react to these strong emotions in many different ways.
  • Assign blame where it belongs.
    Emphasize that the rape was the attacker’s fault. Tell the survivor that you believe her/him. Often, a survivor’s greatest fear is that s/he will not be believed or supported by friends and family.
  • Be supportive and listen.
    You aren’t expected to know the right answers. Often survivors just want to be heard. But know your limits. Being a friend of a survivor can be traumatic too, so seek help or rest when you need it.
  • Support the survivor's empowerment.
    Survivors need to make their own decisions. It is important for them to regain a sense of control over their lives after an assault. Give them information, help them find options and do not try to make decisions for them.

Here are some additional ways you can provide ongoing support when someone you know has been sexually assaulted:

  • Be Available
    In the weeks and months following an assault be available for that person. Whether it is assisting the survivor in getting the help s/he desires, day to day tasks, or just listening. A sympathetic ear can make a big difference in the recovery process. After an assault, a victim may feel out of control. Although you may be tempted to give advice or make decisions for the survivor, it is important that the survivor begins regaining control by making choices for her/his self. You can be helpful by discussing options and providing necessary information. The most important things for you to communicate are:
    "I'm glad you're alive."
    "It's not your fault."
    "I'm sorry this happened."
    "You did the best that you could."
  • Believe the Survivor
    Do not question the account of the assault or what the survivor did to survive. Remember to remain non-judgemental even if the story is hard to hear or you know the other person involved. Believe what you hear.
  • Reinforce the Fact that the Rape was not the Victim's Fault
    If the victim feels guilty because s/he did not fight back, tell her/him that fear often inhibits people and that cooperation does not mean consent.
  • Give the Survivor the Option to Call a Rape Crisis Center
    WomenSafe has trained staff and volunteers who are available 24-hours a day to help survivors. An advocate can accompany the survivor to the hospital or if s/he chooses to report to the police. All services are confidential.
  • Be Respectful of Space
    Following a sexual assault boundaries around personal space usually change dramatically. The survivor may shrink at seemingly non-intrusive physical contact or seem to need more physical space between her/his personal space and other's. Ask permission before making any physical contact and be respectful of the space the survivor may need.
  • If you are Intimate with the Survivor
    With the survivor's approval, use appropriate touching and language to reestablish feelings of self-worth. Let your partner be in charge of any sexual interaction. Talk openly but do not pressure the survivor. Remember not to take rejections toward intimacy personally. It is not about you.
  • Learn About Rape Trauma Syndrome
    A survivor's recovery period can last a long time, during which moods and reactions may change radically from one day to the next. It will help if you both understand the process survivors go through. If you would like more information about the Rape Trauma Syndrome, please call WomenSafe at 388-9180.
  • Get Support for Yourself
    When someone you care about is sexually assaulted, you may suffer a wide range of confusing and painful emotions, also. It can be especially difficult if you know both the survivor and the perpetrator. It is normal to feel angry, but confronting the person responsible is not going to make the situation better. Share your feelings with a person on your own and participate in activities that restore you. Support services are also available to you. Keep in mind that your role is not to make everything better. It is easy to feel like you need to do or say the right thing, but just being with the survivor and not judging can help.

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