How to Help a Friend or Family Member Who’s Been Raped
What you communicate to your friend, daughter, or loved one is extremely important.
What you say, and don’t say, will effect how quickly a rape victim recovers.
- Say “I BELIEVE YOU.”
- Tell her “IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.”
- LISTEN. She will need someone to talk to, who won’t criticize her judgment, show disgust instead of support, or be overly curious about the details.
- SUPPORT the victim’s decisions. Sexual assault takes control away from the victim; it is important that any decision be made by the victim herself, without pressure.
- EDUCATE YOURSELF. Read the other links concerning sexual assault, including Rape Trauma Syndrome.
- SUPPORT her healing no matter how long it takes. Survivors will often try to protect their loved ones by hiding their symptoms, knowing that it hurts you to seem them in pain. Reassure them that you understand that healing is a long process, and that it’s okay for them to be upset when they are around you.
- GET SUPPORT FOR YOURSELF. Loved ones of a sexual assault victim are secondary survivors of sexual assault. You may experience symptoms similar to hers, such as shock, disbelief, guilt, fear or anger. If you expect yourself to bear the full burden of your loved one’s healing, you may be taking on more than you can handle. Contact us at 272-3467 for information on how we can support you with groups or counseling.
- DON’T PRESSURE her to make any decision she’s not comfortable with.
- DON’T ASK BLAMING QUESTIONS, such as “why were you dressed like that?” or “why did you go to that party?” Victims of assault tend to blame themselves, even though it is NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT. Other things not to say include “why didn’t you fight him off”, and “didn’t you know you were leading him on?”
- DON’T encourage her to “PUT THE PAST BEHIND” her or just “get on” with her life. Survivors of sexual assault need to heal on their own time. It can be hard for a friend, partner or parent to watch, but repressing symptoms will only make it harder for the survivor to truly heal.