If someone you know has been sexually assaulted

When supporting a survivor of sexual violence, it is important not to be judgmental and not to take control away from the survivor.

If you can communicate and do the following it will generally assist healing:

  • “It’s not your fault”
  • “I support you, and I am always available if and when you are ready to talk”

Things you can do to help support them:

  • Ensure the survivor is at a safe location away from the perpetrator. If not, consider helping him or her to a safe place when doing so does not pose a safety risk to you.
  • If a threat to the survivor’s immediate safety exists, contact law enforcement as soon as possible.
  • If the survivor requires emergency medical care, call 911.
  • If the survivor requires less than emergency care, help him or her get to a medical provider as soon as possible.
  • Other than safety and health-related questions, try to refrain from asking the survivor for details about the assault.
  • Show interest in what he or she says and ask what you can do to help him or her.
  • Inform the survivor that they can access a rape crisis center for information, support and advocacy.
  • Offer to stay with the survivor. Survivors are sometimes reluctant to be alone after an assault.
  • Consider accompanying the survivor to the hospital or other places if he or she requests it.
  • Be a good listener. Avoid being judgmental, keep from second-guessing and resist placing any blame on him or her. Simply listen and accept what he or she says.
  • Many survivors try to blame themselves because they think the sexual assault would have been prevented had they done something differently. In most cases, survivors have very little control over the outcome of a situation once a perpetrator decides to commit a sexual assault.
  • Again, employ your listening skills and avoid giving an opinion about what has happened.
  • Remind the survivor that you support him or her.
  • Always respect the survivor’s confidentiality. Do not tell others about the survivor’s assault without the survivor’s explicit consent.
  • Take care of yourself too. Make sure you seek support and help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Again, respect the survivor’s confidentiality.
  • There is no “right” or “wrong” way to recover from a sexual assault. However, there are unhelpful, self-destructive ways of coping. Alcohol abuse, drug use, suicidal statements or increased behaviors with unhealthy outcomes (unprotected and/or anonymous sex, gambling, smoking, overeating, etc.) are sometimes warning signs that your friend needs to get professional assistance. Don’t be afraid to suggest that your friend might need support from someone especially skilled to help him or her adopt more productive coping strategies.