Helping

Follow these tips to help a survivor of sexual assault:

  • Talk, listen, respect, and be emotionally available to the survivor.
  • Accept what the survivor tells you.
  • Accept the fact that the assault/abuse happened.
  • Understand that it is not the survivor's fault.
  • Listen without judgment. Suggest options and actions (medical, psychological and other assistance), but let the survivor decide what action to take.
  • Let the survivor talk about the incident, but don't force a discussion.
  • Respect and understand that temporarily the survivor may become distant from loved ones.
  • Assure the survivor that you will be available to provide support throughout the process of recovery.
  • Give the survivor time to heal. Be patient and understand that the healing process takes time.
  • Take the initiative to maintain communications with the survivor.
  • Moderate your natural tendencies to become overprotective.
  • The survivor may need to seek medical attention immediately. You can help by encouraging and accompanying the survivor to obtain medical attention. If the survivor wishes to seek criminal action, this should be done as soon as possible after the incident.

Suggestions for the romantic partner of a survivor

If your partner was sexually assaulted:

  • Ask for permission before touching or holding the survivor.
  • Do not rush sexual contact. The survivor needs to decide when it is right to have sexual contact, and to pace the intensity of involvement.
  • Accept the fact that the survivor's renewal of sexual interest may occur at a slow pace.
  • Discuss the subject of sex in a non-sexual environment (i.e., not in bed).

Feelings you may experience

If you are helping a survivor, you may experience certain feelings.

Impatience

The survivor's dependence on you may feel overwhelming. Recovery can be a long, slow process that may take years. You may fear that the survivor will never be the same again.

Guilt

You may feel guilty that you did not prevent the assault/abuse. It is neither your fault, nor the survivor's fault. The perpetrator committed the crime – not you.

Fear

Your closeness to the survivor's experience may underline the vulnerability to violence that we are all subject to. You may feel vulnerable because you realize that it could happen to you.

  • If you are a man, you may be afraid you will be associated with the perpetrator.
  • If you are a sexual partner, you may be afraid to have sex with the survivor.
  • It is important to realize that your feelings are natural. Accept your feelings and try to understand and to get help for yourself.

How to help yourself

  • Talk with people you can trust. You also need support from others.
  • If you are male and the survivor is female, do not take personally any hatred she feels toward men. Her anger with the perpetrator may generalize into temporary anger toward all men.
  • Talk to a counselor or call a rape crisis hotline. It is hard to witness someone in emotional pain. Take care of yourself as you help the survivor.
  • Educate yourself about rape and rape prevention.
  • Moderate your stress levels through activities with other friends and/or through “alone time.”
  • Do not expect to be able to make the survivor feel better all of the time.
  • Do not blame yourself. The only person who is at fault is the person who committed the crime.