If A Friend Or Family Member Is Assaulted

What If a Friend or Family Member Is Sexually Assaulted?

Learning that someone you care about was sexually assaulted can be very upsetting. The more you know about sexual violence the easier it will be to support a survivor. Remember that everyone responds to the experience of sexual violence in their own way. Some typical reactions are:

  • Crying, sobbing
  • Shaking
  • Denial
  • Embarrassment
  • Hopelessness
  • Frozen, emotionless, like a “deer in headlights”
  • Laughter

– Helpful Things You Can Do To Support A Survivor –

  • Believe Them
  • Listen
  • Respect Privacy and Confidentiality
  • Respect Their Choices: Sexual assault robs victims of their sense of being in control – giving victims choices and respecting their decisions is very important
  • Encourage Them To Seek Help: Provide information about local services

– Unhelpful Responses –

The following responses can be extremely upsetting for victims and make it more difficult to heal emotionally:

  • Blame them by asking “why” questions (“Why did you go to his room?”)
  • Make promises you cannot keep (“Everything will be alright”, “They’ll go to jail.”)
  • Tell them what they should or shouldn’t have done
  • Confront the offender – this can make the victim feel even more out of control
  • Push the victim to talk if they aren’t ready
  • Hold or touch the victim without permission – victims may be very sensitive about being touched; it’s a good idea to ask first before hugging, holding hands, etc.