All forms of sexual abuse and sexual assault are traumatic experiences for victims. Having support is one of the most important factors in a victim’s healing and resilience There are many ways you can support a friend, co-worker, family member or someone else you know who has been sexually abused.
Helping a Victim in the Immediate Aftermath
Encourage the victim to “reach out” for help and support from people and places that know how to assist sexual assault victims.
Making a police report. If the victim wants to report the crime, it is important to contact the police as soon as possible. Police officers can help victims get specialized medical care and forensic services and address victims’ concerns about their personal safety.
Encourage the victim to seek specialized medical care as soon as possible. This is important regardless whether s/he makes an immediate police report, and even if it appears that s/he did not sustain any physical injuries. It is recommended that victims seek this care from a specialized sexual assault treatment center or a hospital ER that provides medical/evidentiary services for victims 24 hours a day.
Offer to accompany the victim when s/he makes a police report or seeks other services such as medical care, an evidentiary examination, counseling, and other types of assistance.
Encourage the victim to talk with a counselor at a sexual assault treatment center, a therapist with specialized knowledge about sexual abuse, or another resource that provides services for victims. If the victim is not ready to seek in-person counseling, suggest contacting a sexual assault hotline and talking with a counselor on the telephone.
If you are providing support for a victim, take care of yourself too. If you need information and/or support, you can contact the resources that are available to victims.
“Be there” for the victim. Let the victim know you want to help.
Be a good listener. Let the victim decide what s/he feels comfortable telling you. Don’t press for details or ask a lot of questions. It takes courage for victims to talk about the experience of being sexually abused with other people.
Respect the victim’s privacy and confidentiality. Do not disclose what the victim tells you to other people. Let the victim decide who s/he wants to confide in.
Encourage and support the victim in making her or his own decisions and choices. This is a good way to help victims regain a sense of personal power and control.
Offer to help the victim find information about rights, options and available resources so s/he can make informed choices and decisions. Certain issues are time sensitive for sexual assault victims, including getting specialized medical care, having evidence collected, and exploring treatment options for certain health risks.
Find Resources Near You
To find information about victim assistance resources that are near you, contact RAINN (www.rainn.org), a national hotline that can help you locate and access resources in communities across the country. RAINN is a free, confidential hotline service that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.