If you are a friend or family member of someone who has been raped, you may feel that you do not know what to say. Just being there and listening is helpful. Here are some ideas for how you can be supportive:
- Validate and believe her. If she feels ashamed or guilty, reassure her that the rape was not her fault and that her feelings are normal. Even if you feel you might have reacted differently, remember that her reactions are uniquely hers.
- Help her create a safe place for herself. Help her to think about what changes, if any, she would like to make that will help her feel safer, whether related to her physical surroundings or her interactions with people at home or at work.
- Allow her to express a full range of feelings. The feelings of a survivor of sexual assault can be very strong. Expressing these powerful feelings in a safe environment is an important part of the healing process. You can be very helpful if you feel comfortable supporting her in expressing feelings of anger, sorrow, frustration, and fear.
- Offer options, not opinions. Survivors often struggle with important and complex decisions. You can be most helpful by helping her identify all of the options available and supporting her in her decision-making.
- Dispel myths about rape. You can empower a woman who has been sexually assaulted by helping her dispel destructive myths about rape and assuring her that you do not believe these false ideas.
- Advocate. She may need someone to help ensure that her feelings are validated and her rights are upheld in the medical or legal system.
- Take her to the hospital or a rape crisis counselor. She may feel more comfortable going to these places with a friend.
- Believe in the possibility of healing. Let her know that you believe that healing is possible and that she has the strength and capacity to heal.
For more information on how to help your friend and yourself, see Self-Care for Friends and Family.