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What to do if someone I know is sexually assaulted?

A survivor’s support system can have a significant impact on the healing process.  As a family member or friend of a survivor, you may experience many emotions about what has happened and be unsure about how to act or what to say after a disclosure of sexual assault.  Be reassured that there are many simple things that you can do to be a positive source of support and strength, such as:

  • Being available to listen when they are ready to talk and not probing for information about the assault.
  • Emphasizing that the sexual assault was not their fault, regardless of the circumstances.  Be nonjudgmental in your communication by not questioning their decisions or actions before, during, and after the assault.
  • Empowering the survivor to make their own decisions about reporting, prosecution and healthcare following an assault and respecting their wishes. 
  • Increasing your own awareness and knowledge of sexual assault.  Become familiar with the resources in your community that can provide additional support and services for sexual assault survivors, such as local sexual assault programs (insert link to CSAP list) or mental health agencies.
  • Being patient.  Recovering from sexual assault is an ongoing process that will look different for everyone, and your friend or family member needs to know that you will be a consistent source of support.
  • Taking care of yourself and seeking help if you are having a difficult time coping.

 


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Reviewed: April 22nd, 2011