When someone experiences sexual violence, they often feel isolated and alone. As a friend or family member, you have the ability to provide support. Below are several things you can do to help during their healing process and provide the support they need. As you help your friend or family member through this difficult time, you may also experience anger, confusion or depression. These are normal side-effect related to discussing trauma. The Alliance’s member centers can provide you with supportive services as well.
Believe them unconditionally.
Accept what you hear without judgment.
Reinforce that it is not their fault.
Do not ask “why” questions that suggest they are to blame for the assault.
Understand that you cannot control how they feel.
Understand that you cannot “fix” the problem; there is no easy solution.
Do not assume you know how they are feeling.
Understand that almost any reaction is possible and completely normal.
Be a good listener and be patient.
Let them know you are there for them when they are ready to talk.
Do not push for detailed information.
Help them regain a sense of control over their life.
Understand that during a sexual assault, power was taken away from them.
Support decisions and choices they make without passing judgment.
Present options and resources, but do not force them to make a decision.
Respect their need for privacy.
Respect their need to be alone.
Do not suggest that they “move on” and forget about the assault.
Respect their right to decide whether or not to report to police.
Remember to take care of yourself too and seek support if you need it.
Let them tell you what they are comfortable sharing.