How to help a friend who has been raped

Everyone has his or her own unique responses to being assaulted. However, it may be helpful for you to realize that it is common for survivors to feel confused, ashamed, guilty, dirty, frightened, helpless, damaged, distrustful, etc. Remember, whatever a survivor feels is understandable, given her or his experience.

Offer shelter.
See that the victim has a safe place to stay and does not have to be alone until ready.

Be supportive.
Offer emotional comfort and support. Encourage expression of feelings. Don’t ask for details but be willing to listen if the victim wants to talk. If you are not comfortable listening empathetically, help the victim find someone who can.

Encourage action.
Gently encourage getting medical attention, seeking counseling, and making a report, even if the assault occurred some time ago.

Be reassuring.
Rape is never the victim’s fault. Some things you can say to someone who has been sexually assaulted:

  • "I believe you."
  • "You survived; you did the best you could under the circumstances."
  • "It is not your fault. Nothing you did could possibly justify what happened."
  • "I’m sorry it happened to you."
  • "This does not change how I feel about you."
  • "What can I do to help you?"

Refer your friend for professional assistance; and get support for yourself!

 

Footnotes:

  1. Excerpted from Loyola Marymount University, "Sexual Assault & Rape."