Adult survivors need to make their own decisions regarding medical care, reporting the crime, and seeking support. Regaining this control is an important part of recovery.
Listen and believe. Encourage the survivor to develop a support network by using rape crisis center services and talking with supportive family and friends.
Protect the survivor’s privacy. Maintain the survivor’s trust in you by respecting his or her privacy. Don’t tell their story to anyone without their permission.
Educate yourself. Learning about common reactions to sexual assault can help you better understand what the survivor may be feeling.
Advice versus support. Giving advice may put pressure on the survivor and may make them feel reluctant to confide in you. Instead, support the survivor by educating yourself about the survivor’s options and share this information with them. Tell them that you will support whatever decision he or she makes.
Get support for yourself. It can be difficult to see someone you care about in pain. Rape Crisis Centers are available to support family and friends of survivors. Taking care of yourself will make you a better support person for the survivor.
Only the perpetrator is responsible for the assault. It is normal to feel anger toward the perpetrator, yourself, the world, or even the survivor. Feeling angry can be an important part of healing emotionally after rape. Avoid expressing your anger in a way that makes the survivor feel responsible for the assault and its effect on you.
This project was supported by Grant #2009-WF-AX-0014 awarded by the Violence Against Women Grants Office, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security Office of Grants & Research and subgranted to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Points of view in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice or the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety Programs Division.