Services for sexual assault survivors in Maryland are available during the COVID-19 crisis. Local rape crisis centers, SALI, and MCASA are available to provide direct services. Learn more

When someone you care about has been sexually assaulted it can be difficult to know what to do or say. You may have feelings of fear, anger, sadness, and disbelief. The most important thing that you can do from the beginning is to believe them. One of the most significant factors in a survivor’s recovery is how those around them respond to their disclosure.

Remember, nothing a person does, or the decisions they make causes them to be sexually assaulted. Your loved one needs your love and support no matter the circumstances of the assault.

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Sexual assault can affect a survivor’s life in the following ways:

  • Physical & mental health
  • Body image
  • Self-esteem
  • Sexuality & relationships
  • Eating & sleeping habits
  • How they function in social situations

What to be careful of:

  • Avoid giving advice or taking control of the situation. Allow your loved one to have control over their own decisions.
  • Not taking care of your needs. Your loved one is not in a position to take care of you.
  • Treating the survivor like they’re broken or damaged.

How friends and family can help a survivor:

  • Listen to what they have to say about what happened, but in their own time.
  • Be supportive – ask what you can do to help. Do not assume you know what is best.
  • Know where to find information on your local Rape Crisis and Recovery Center.
  • If they are interested in information on a Sexual
    Assault Forenstic Exam (SAFE), you can help them find a local SAFE program. During a SAFE, a specialized nurse can treat injuries, collect evidence, and address concerns about pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections (STIs). Evidence is best collected within 120 hours of a rape or sexual assault. If the assault took place outside of this timeframe, survivors should contact their local SAFE program for guidance.
  • Allow them to decide the level of your involvement.
  • Offer them a safe place to stay, or stay with them in their home.
  • Recognize your own anger. It is not the survivor’s responsibility to address your anger.
  • Remind them it was not their fault.
  • Be patient – and remind them to be patient with themselves.
  • Offer to accompany them to various appointments (doctors, police, lawyers, courts).
  • Encourage them to engage in self-care activities as a way to cope.
  • Remind them that the assault is something that happened to them; it doesn’t define them as a person.

For more information, visit:

After Sexual Assault Resources