How to Help Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted
If a friend or someone you know was sexually assaulted, she or he may experience a variety of emotional reactions. For some, the emotional impact of sexual assault can be immediate and short-term. For others, the effects can be long-lasting. Your friend may find it helpful to talk to a counselor about these feelings.
YOU CAN HELP:
- Listen. A friend may confide in you ten minutes or ten years after the assault. At that time, it doesn't matter so much what you say but how well you listen. Allow the person to talk, but do not push for details.
- Believe her or him. Survivors need to validate their experience. Be sure your friend knows how much you support her or him.
- Don't blame the survivor. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted. Avoid searching for things your friend should have done. Survivors often blame themselves and need to know it was not their fault.
- Let the survivor control the situation. Let your friend determine the pace of healing. Help your friend understand the options available, and encourage your friend to keep her or his options open. Most important, allow your friend to make her or his own decisions.
- Encourage the survivor to get medical attention as soon as possible. Your friend can receive medical attention from a private doctor, clinic, or hospital emergency room. By law, Emergency Room staff must contact the police when they treat sexual assault victims. The police will ask your friend to file a report, but she or he does not have to talk to the police or file a report if she or he does not want to.
- Don't be afraid to ask for outside help. Your friend may need medical attention or counseling. Offer to help your friend access Wellness Center or other services. Regardless of how much time has passed since the assault, the survivor can receive counseling and referrals from the Wellness Center.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF:
- Understand your own feelings. You may also feel confused, hurt, angry, or frightened. Such feelings are normal.
- Don't be afraid to ask for outside help. Find someone other than the survivor to talk with about your feelings. Talking with someone else may help you understand your own emotions and give you a clearer perspective on the situation. Counseling is available at the Wellness Center.
- Know and respect your own limits. There is only so much you can do to help your friend. You can provide support, compassion, and companionship when your friend wants it, but try not to make commitments that you can't fulfill.
- Remember that it was not your fault. You may feel guilty, thinking that somehow you could have prevented your friend's sexual assault. Don't forget that sexual assault is a violent crime and you are not responsible for someone else's actions.
- Realize that coping with sexual assault is a long-term process.