How Family And Friends Can Help

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You have the most important role in helping the survivor of sexual assault in their recovery by giving them the reassurance, love, comfort and support they need.

The experience of rape can be extremely painful, and a survivor may require your understanding. The rape experience is a crisis that the survivor must work through at their own pace, and most survivors do work through this crisis and return to their normal routine. Most survivors have a great deal of inner strength, and your support can help a survivor regain their feelings of personal strength and self-worth.

Here are some steps you can take to assist your friend or family member in dealing with the rape:

 Listen to them. Let the person know you are available if they need you.  Resist the urge to ask for details.

Provide comfort and support in a way that is best suited for the survivor.  Ask them if there is anything you can do or get for them.

Let them know it wasn’t their fault. Many rape victims feel guilty or blame themselves.  Reinforce that they did not deserve what happened to them.  The perpetrator is the only one to blame.

Offer protection or a safe place to stay. You can also offer to stay at their home if that would be better for them.  Remember, the choice is up to them.

Suggest calling a Rape Crisis Center – (866) 551-7273. A rape crisis counselor can discuss the victim’s options and needs.

Empower the rape victim to gain back control over their life.  Allow them to make decisions about what’s best for them.

Recognize they may need some personal space and time before they resume sexual relations.  Some may not want to be touched or held for a while, yet others may want that closeness.

Discuss their options – making a police report, getting counseling, having a medical exam.  Offer your support – whatever their decision.

Be there for them in whatever way they need you.  Recovery from rape takes time.  Understand they may not want to talk about it today, but they might need you several months from now.

Learn about rape trauma. The YWCA Rape Crisis Center has information available about rape and support services.

Recognize your own limits. Rape affects family and friends as well.  It’s OK to call the Rape Crisis Center for your own needs. Family and friends are not invulnerable to the pain of rape.

If someone tells you they’ve been raped, whether it happened recently or several years ago, it’s important to tell the survivor, “I’m sorry this happened to you.  I’m here if you need me—anytime.”