Sexual Assault Helping Survivors

Educate Yourself about Sexual Abuse/Rape and the Healing Process
If you have a basic idea of what the survivor is going through, it will help you to be supportive. Talk with other survivors and supporters of survivors. Many are willing to share what has helped them, or can give you ideas on how to deal with a certain situation.

Believe the Survivor
Even if they sometimes doubt themselves, or their memories are vague, or if what they tell you sounds too extreme, believe them. Survivors do not usually make up stories of sexual abuse or rape. Let them know that you are open to hearing anything they wish to share, and that you are willing to listen.

Validate the Survivor's Feelings: Their Anger, Pain, and Fear
These are natural, healthy responses. Survivors need to feel them, express them, and be heard.

Join with the Survivor in Validating the Damage
All sexual abuse and rape is harmful. Even if it is not violent, overly physical, or repeated, all abuse and rape has serious consequences. There is no positive or neutral experience of sexual abuse or rape.

Be Clear that the Abuse or Rape was NOT the Survivor's Fault
No one asks to be abused or raped. The survivor did what they had to do to survive. It is always the fault of the perpetrator.

Don't sympathize with the Perpetrator
The survivor needs your absolute loyalty.

Express your Compassion
If you have feelings of outrage, compassion, pain for their pain, do share them. There is probably nothing more comforting that a genuine human response. Just make sure your feelings don't overwhelm theirs.

Respect the Time and Space it Takes to Heal
Healing is a slow process that can't be hurried. It is not a good idea to compare the time process of one survivor to another different survivor.

Encourage the Survivor to Get Additional Support
In addition to offering your own caring, encourage them to reach out to others. Get support for yourself. You will have many feelings about the abuse or rape as well. You need to take care of yourself so you can be there for the survivor.

Get Help if the Survivor is Suicidal
Most survivors are not suicidal, but sometimes the pain of the abuse or rape is so devastating that the survivor may want to kill themselves. If you are close to a survivor who is suicidal, get help immediately.

Resist Seeing the Survivor as a Victim
Continue to see them as a strong, courageous person who is reclaiming their own life.

{Source: A Dozen Ways to Help your Loved One}