It is very difficult to watch someone you love go through the pain caused by sexual assault.
Anger is common. It will be helpful for the victim and you if you seek professional counseling or find other outlets for your anger, such as physical exercise.
Below are some things you can do:
- Ensure the victim's physical safety. Make sure the victim is in a safe place. If she/he hasn’t already contacted someone for emotional support, encourage the victim to do so.
- Listen. Let the victim talk at her/his own pace. Do not say everything will “be all right”. Sometimes it takes years to heal.
- Keep information the victim tells you CONFIDENTIAL. Let the victim decide whom to tell and when.
- Believe the Victim. Make it clear that you believe her/him and that the rapist is to blame. Do NOT ask “why”.
- Be Helpful. Support the choices of the survivor. Allow the survivor to decide about reporting to the police, pressing charges and telling friends and family. It is important for survivors to regain control and to know that her/his decisions will be respected.
Remember, it is common for survivors to blame themselves, to be afraid and to wonder "why me?".
The following are helpful ways to respond to these emotions:
- If the survivor is feeling afraid - "You are safe here. I know you are afraid, and I’m here to help you."
- If the survivor is blaming her/himself - "He/she had no right to assault you."
- If the survivor is wondering "why me?" - “Anyone can be a victim. The rapist knew what he/she was doing.”
- Ask Before Touching - You may want to hold and comfort your loved one, but the victim may be uncomfortable with any touching. Be respectful of personal space.
- Counseling - The victim has been through a traumatic experience and may need support. PAAR can help. Urge the victim to call the agency hotline at 1-866-END-RAPE. But let the victim ultimately decide whether or not to contact a crisis center.
- Be Patient - The effects of sexual assault can be long-lasting.
- Seek counseling for yourself - Many rape crisis centers, including PAAR, have sessions for families and friends of sexual violence victims. You can contact us at 1-866-END-RAPE.