The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 women will be the victim of sexual violence or attempted sexual violence in their lifetime.
Those one in four women are
They are victims not contributors to their circumstance.
If someone that you care about has been violated, or is the victim of sexual violence or attempted sexual violence, here are some things you can do in the situation. You will notice that victim blaming is NOT located anywhere in these suggestions:
For Friends & Loved Ones of a survivor
It is important to remember that a person who has been sexually assaulted may react in many different ways. There is no right or wrong way for them to respond. We may assume that they will cry and become depressed. However, some people become numb and may push their feelings to the side. Remind them it was not their fault and that you believe them.
Communication – Let the survivor speak as much or as little as they feel comfortable. Do not press for details. Also remember that you are a supporter who can listen, but you are not a therapist. It is also important to take care of yourself as you are hearing difficult information.
Decision Making – It is important to allow the survivor to have control over the situation. It is their decision if they want to go to counseling. It is their decision if they want to contact the police. Even if you may feel frustrated that they do not want to file a police report that is their decision. You can offer them information or ask them to call us for support.
Survivor’s Emotions – The survivor’s emotions may appear to be a roller coaster at times. There may be sadness one day, anger the next and avoidance of the situation the next. It can be common for a survivor to express or avoid their feelings. Watch your assumptions! Do not assume that because they are not crying that they were not raped or that they are not bothered by the assault. Often times a survivor may feel they are weak if they cry or are avoiding their emotions because they are not ready to feel the pain of the experience.
Your Emotions – Be careful in what emotions you express. Of course you are human and you are going to feel sad, confused or angry. However, we do not want the survivor to think you are angry with them or that they have to take care of you. Make sure you have a support system so you are taking care of yourself.
If they know their abuser – Often times a survivor knows their perpetrator. It may be a family member, a close friend, a date or a lover. Because there may be mixed emotions on the survivor’s part be careful not to condemn the person. Condemn their behavior, but leave the rest alone. It is an emotional process the survivor will have to go through in sorting out their feelings towards that person.
Legal System – Do not make promises about the perpetrator going to jail. The court process can be lengthy and it is a situation you cannot control. Please refer to Court & Legal Information for answers to your questions about the reporting process.
Relationships & Intimacy – Be patient! A survivor may not feel comfortable with sex or emotional intimacy after being sexually assaulted. Some sexual acts may remind them of the attack or they may experience a decreased interest in sex. Don’t be afraid to encourage communication about your relationship. Let the survivor know that you are there when they are ready-one step at a time. Ask what they feel comfortable doing or talking about.
Counseling – Encourage the survivor to get support and counseling. For couples: you can suggest couple’s counseling to help process how the assault is affecting your relationship