How To Support A Victim Of Sexual Assault
If you are
reading this, a person you care about has probably been a victim of sexual
assault. Because you care about this
person, you may experience feelings that may be similar to those of the person
who has been assaulted. These feelings
may include anger, shock, helplessness, grief, and, perhaps, even guilt. You will never know exactly how a victim
feels about the assault, but you can listen and be supportive. This brochure will assist you in helping the victim
cope with the trauma of the assault, as well as assist you with your own trauma
related to assault.
How to Start the
Seek out a
private, quiet place to begin talking.
Allow plenty of time to talk at length.
Start by saying the following:
- It is not
- I am here to
- I am sorry
conversation Ė What do you do?
- Listen. Your friend may need to tell you about the
assault over and over again.
- Believe. Survivors need to know that you believe what
happened. It is rare that people make up
stories about sexual assault.
feelings. Acknowledge your friendís
sadness, anger, fear, or confusion.
- Assure. Tell your friend that she/he did the best
she/he could do to survive the situation and that no one deserves to be
- Donít say
ďWhen are you going to get over this?Ē
- Donít blame
or judge your friend.
Now that you know,
what can you do?
treating your friend like a helpless victim.
takes time. Respect your friendís pace
and be patient.
- Accept your
friendís decision whether to report the assault and/or to cooperate with the
- Help your
friend with plans, but donít make decisions for her/him.
- Respect your
friendís right to tell or not tell others about the assault.
- Only give
advice if and when your friend asks for it.
- Remind your
friend that sexual assault is a crime and is never the victimís fault.
- Remind your
friend that millions of people have experienced sexual assault and that she/he
is not alone.
- Help your
friend identify support systems and provide information on local crisis or
mental health providers.
- You may
accompany your friend to the hospital or the law enforcement station.
permission from your friend, enlist other friends and family to help.
- Stay with
your friend through the healing process.
- Remember to
take care of yourself and seek support for your own response to the sexual
assault of your friend or family member.
To Report or To Not
sexual assault to law enforcement is a very individualized decision that
victims will need to make for themselves.
Remember, if your friend decides not to report, they are still fully
entitled to support services and medical care.
If your friend does decide to report, you will need to know what to
expect from the different systems that may be encountered. Below is a brief overview of what to
expect. Your local sexual assault
program advocate will be able to more fully help you understand the process in
your area and to support you through it.
from your local sexual assault program can be accessed whether or not your
friend chooses to report. Advocates can
be helpful to friends and family members of victims. Advocates are trained to be with victims at
the hospital, go the law enforcement station, provide individual and group
counseling, and provide you with specific information about sexual
assault. Whether your friend decides to
report, getting in touch with your local sexual assault program can be a very
important and helpful step in healing.
assault evidence kit, sometimes called a ďrape kit,Ē is performed by medical
personnel to collect evidence at the request of law enforcement. This exam can be performed whether or not
your friend decides to report the sexual assault to law enforcement. Although medical personnel who collect the
evidence are well-trained, the process may be uncomfortable. Support is important; your friend may need
you to be there. The cost of collection
of the evidence will be assessed by the county.
However, there may be other costs incurred at the hospital for medical
treatment that are not considered part of the evidence kit. If your friend has reported the assault to
law enforcement, she/he may be eligible for Crime Victimsí Compensation
benefits that can help pay for financial losses such as medical expenses, lost
wages, counseling/therapy, and other costs related to the assault.
enforcement will need to ask your friend questions about the assault. Some questions may be very difficult to
answer and may not make sense at the time they are asked, but there is a reason
for them. It is not unusual for law
enforcement to visit the victim numerous times during the course of an
investigation. Once law enforcement has
investigated and has been able to identify the offender, they will send the
information to the prosecutor.
prosecutor determines if there is enough evidence to move forward with prosecution. The system sometimes moves slowly. It sometimes seems that just as a victim
begins to feel OK, she/he is thrown back into the middle of the trauma because
of a court hearing or trial. Sometimes
victims find it very important to have information about the court case and
proceedings. Most prosecutors have
Victim Witness Coordinators who can help get this information. Victims have a legal right to certain
information about the case.
Remember You Are Not Alone.
assault is a crisis, and we all handle crisis in different ways. Some victims go into shock after being
sexually assaulted, or experience overwhelming fear, anger, shame, or
anxiety. The emotional reaction to
sexual assault is complex and often confusing.
Remember that these feelings and experiences are not unusual. The fear and confusion will lessen with time,
but the trauma may disrupt your friendís life for awhile.
For support, contact the following:
and domestic violence program nearest you click here.
Kansas Crisis Hotline
This information was obtained from the Kansas Coalition
Against Sexual and Domestic Violence (KCSDV) brochure titled How
To Support A Victim Of Sexual Assault.