What to do if a friend or family member is a victim of sexual violence:
Rape is devastating to the victim, but it can be traumatic for loved ones of the victim as well. You will see the victim go through many different emotions, and it may be difficult to know how to support her/him or to understand what she/he is going through.
As the loved one of a survivor, it will be important for you to get help and support too.
You can help the survivor by:
- Believing the survivor
- Understanding the variety of feelings that are common for rape survivors, from fear, guilt, and shame, to anger, depression, and denial (see information about Rape Trauma Syndrome)
- Understanding that every survivor of sexual violence reacts differently and has different needs
- Presenting choices and alternatives so the survivor can make her/his own choice in dealing with the rape
- Accepting the survivor's decisions in dealing with the rape
- Helping the survivor find support through loved ones, your local rape crisis center, or a counselor
- Rape is NEVER the victim's fault.
You can help yourself by:
- Not blaming yourself for what has happened to the survivor
- Allowing yourself to experience a range of emotions; you may feel a variety of things, including guilt, anger, concern, disbelief, and depression
- Not taking it personally when the survivor directs negative feelings towards you
- Knowing your limits, and knowing that you may need support as you deal with the rape of your loved one
- Talking to your local rape crisis center, a counselor, or a trusted friend or family member to get support
You can't take away the survivor's pain, but you can help make the pain easier to handle.