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How to Help a Sexual Assault Victim

If someone you care about is sexually assaulted, you may feel angry, confused, and helpless. There are several things you can do to help in the healing process and provide the support your loved one needs.

Believe the victim/survivor unconditionally. Accept what you hear without judgment.

Reinforce to them that it is not their fault. Sexual assault is NEVER the victim/survivor's fault. It is important not to ask "why" questions such as, "Why were you in that area at that time?". This suggests that they are to blame for the assault.

Understand that you cannot control how they feel or "fix" the problem. Everyone reacts differently to sexual assault and heals at their own pace. It is important that you not assume you know how they feel. 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. When and if they do not want to talk about the assault, do not push for information. Let them tell you what they are comfortable sharing in their own time.

Help the victim/survivor regain a sense of control over their life. During a sexual assault, power is taken away from them. Support decisions and choices they make without passing judgment. Try not to tell them what to do; instead assist them by presenting options and resources for them to make the decisions they feel are right for them.

Respect their need for privacy. If they need to be alone, respect that decision.

Do not suggest they "move on" with their life and forget about it. They need the opportunity to work through the trauma of the assault and begin the healing process.

Respect their decision whether or not to report to law enforcement.

Take care of yourself. You will be able to better support them if you take care of you.


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