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 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.
  • Avoiding the topic. It can be helpful for your loved one to repeat the story several times.
  • 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.
  • Encourage them to contact a Rape Crisis and Recovery Center.
  • Encourage them to obtain a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) to treat injuries, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and address pregnancy concerns. The exam must be completed within 120 hours. Find a SAFE program near you.
  • 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 her/himself.
  • Accompany them to various appointments (doctors, police, lawyers, courts).
  • Encourage them to engage in self-soothing 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