How to Help a Sexual Assault Survivor
If Someone you Know has Been Sexually Assaulted
- Get to a place where you/they feel safe.
- Try to preserve all the physical evidence (even if they don't want you to press charges at this point), keep clothes and other items in a brown paper bag.
- Reinforce that it wasn't their fault.
- Provide information about options, but allow them to make decisions about what to do next.
How to Help a Sexual Assault Survivor:
- Keep telling survivors that it is not their fault.
Never blame the survivor. Don't let them blame themselves. Sexual assault is never the survivors' fault, under any circumstances.
- Tell the survivors that their survival is all that really matters.
It will be reassuring for survivors to hear that what is most important is that they survived and got through the experience as best they could. Questions like "Why did you go there alone?" are blaming, not reassuring.
- Assure survivors that you believe that they were sexually assaulted.
If you communicate that you believe them, you will be helping survivors a great deal. If they say they were sexually assaulted, then that is enough even if they didn't scream or there was no evidence of harm.
- Tell survivors that you will support them by listening.
Be supportive by listening, not judging or prying. Let them take their time to share the details. Let them share only what they are able to.
- Ask survivors what they need from you instead of telling them how to handle the situation.
Let survivors be in control of who to tell about the assault, and how they manage their life. This will help them feel that they are regaining the control they lost by being victimized.
- Tell survivors that it is okay to talk about their feelings for as long as they need.
It is normal for survivors to feel angry, afraid, anxious and depressed. If these feelings intensify and continue to overwhelm them and they are not getting help, support them in getting help.