If a child, friend or associate tells you that they have been molested, raped or assaulted you need to let them know first that you believe them. That is one of the most important things you will ever be able to do for them.
Next remind them, or tell them for the first time that they are NOT at fault.
After a rape, survivors may be openly upset, even hysterical, or they may be numb and seemingly calm. You can help victims by meeting immediate needs:
- Obtaining medical assistance
- Feeling safe. Rape is a traumatic violation of a person. Especially in the beginning, it is often difficult for victims to be alone.
- Being believed. With date rape especially, victims need to be believed that what occurred was, in fact, a rape.
- Knowing it was not their fault. Most rape victims feel guilty and feel that the attack was somehow their fault.
- Taking control of their life. When a person is raped, they may feel completely out of control of what is happening to them. A significant step on the road to recovery is to regain a sense of control in little, as well as big things.
You can help by:
- Listening, not judging. It is not your place to play prosecutor and make a victim prove their story. Accept their version of the facts and be supportive.
- Offering shelter. If it is at all possible, stay with them at their place or let them at least spend one night at your place. This is not the time for them to be alone.
- Being available. Victims may need to talk at strange hours, or could use your help to run errands or screen calls.
- Giving comfort.
- Letting them know that they are not to blame.
- Being patient and understanding.
- Encouraging action. For example, suggest they call a hotline, go to a hospital or health center, and/or call the police. Respect their decision if they decide not to file charges.
- Not being overly protective. Encourage them to make their own decisions. A victim needs to feel in control of their life and this will not be possible if you do everything for them.
- Accept their choice of solution to the rape – even if you disagree with what they are doing. It is more important that a victim make decisions and have them respected than it is for you to impose what you think is the “right” decision.
- Put aside your feelings, and deal with them somewhere else. Although it is supportive for a rape survivor to know that others are equally upset with what happened, it does them no good if on top of their own feelings, they also have to deal with your feelings of rage and anger.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, please contact RCASA at (540) 371-1666. RCASA will be able to help them figure out the next best step. Information is kept confidential.