Ways to Support A Sexual Assault Survivor
There are many ways that you can help a friend or family member who has been a victim of rape or sexual violence. The following list provides some ways to offer support:
Listen without judgement.
Allow them to be heard and feel comfortable talking about what happened to them. If their loved ones can’t listen sincerely without judgement then they will be even more reluctant to get help or report the assault.
Do not question their version of events. Say the words “ I believe you.” Most survivors who never report their assaults decided not to because they were afraid that no one would believe them.
No coulda, shoulda, woulda.
Do not offer suggestions on how the sexual assault could have been prevented. The survivor has probably already thought about the night a thousand times and ultimately sexual assault is NOT the fault of the victim.
Ask how you can help.
Do not try to take control of the situation or assume you know what is best for your loved one. Allow them to make decisions at their own pace and continue to ask “Is there anything you need from me right now?”
It will take your loved one some time to process their emotions and deal with the incident. Respect their decisions and remember that they are going through a very traumatic and uncertain time.
Help to empower your loved one.
Rape and sexual violence take away an individual’s power and confidence. It’s okay to offer tools or resources but it’s up to them to decide how to move forward. Do not put pressure on them.
Do not report a loved one’s personal assault to law enforcement or officials without their consent. There is a lot to consider in a crisis situation and it’s important that they are safe and ready.
Let your loved one know that professional help is available through SASHAA’s crisis line and live chat. We offer culturally sensitive services that assist survivors in navigating complicated legal and cultural landscapes to make informed decisions.
*Adapted from the website of the Rape and Incest National Network and YWCA of Greater Portland Domestic Violence Advocacy Training Program.