How to help someone who has been a victim of sexual assault

This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may have been sexually assaulted or has questions around the topic:

What is Sexual Assault? Definitions & Meanings of Rape
Who Commits Sexual Assault & Why?
What are the Signs of Sexual Assault?
Date Rape & Staying Safe
What Impacts Does Sexual Assault Have on Victims and Their Family/Friends?
Coping, Healing & Recovering From Sexual Assault & Rape
How to Help Someone Who has Been a Victim of Sexual Assault
How to report Sexual Assault (and Who to Report it to)
How is Sexual Assault & Rape Proven in Court?
Punishment and Sentencing for Sexual Assault
How can Sexual Assault and Rape be Prevented?
Sexual Assault Data & Statistics
Sexual Assault Helplines, Support & Further Reading

It can be difficult trying to help someone who has been sexually assaulted, you may not know what to say or do. This can be even more challenging when the victim is a family member or a close friend, you will be trying to deal with your own emotions too. However, it is not easy for victims to disclose or talk about the assault so it is important that you are supportive and non-judgmental.

In this guide, we provide useful tips on how you can help victims of sexual assault.

What to say and do if someone has recently been sexually assaulted

It takes a lot of courage to talk about sexual assault, victims need to feel that you acknowledge how difficult this must be for them and most importantly that you believe them. Here are a few things you could say to help;

  • “ it’s not your fault, you did nothing to deserve this, nobody has a right to mistreat you”
  • “I believe you”
  • “ I know this must be really difficult for you and it took a lot of courage for you to talk about this”
  • I’m really sorry that this happened to you”
  • Remember I’m here for you, you are not alone”
  • “I care about you and will try to help in any way that I can”

Remember your support can make a difference to a victim of sexual assault, how you respond to their situation is very important. The right approach and attitude can encourage the victim to talk about their experience and be willing to access resources for support. If the victim feels you are judging or criticising them they may feel too scared to talk about their experience again.

What is the best way to comfort and support a rape victim?

The right help and support from people they trust are invaluable for the victim of rape. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what the victim has experienced when you are not in that situation yourself. However be careful not to say anything that would damage the victim’s confidence any further, it is important that you listen without judging or criticising. By talking to the victim in an encouraging and supporting tone, you will help build the victim’s confidence, making them feel stronger.

You can encourage the victim to talk about their experience by being sensitive and using a non-judgmental approach and tone. Listen to the victim and acknowledge the difficulties they are facing and remind them of their strength.  You may find the victim could benefit from professional support. This could mean accompanying them to visit their GP if they have been physically hurt or you may want the help the victim contact organisations who are able to provide counselling services. These professionals are trained in helping the victim to understand what they have been through and can offer further support and guidance.

How to help a partner who has been sexually assaulted

If your partner has been a victim of sexual assault, they will experience emotional complexities which can be difficult to understand. You may find it extremely frustrating seeing your loved one going through this ordeal, however you need to be very understanding and patient. Allow your partner to talk about the assault if it helps them and let them know you are willing to listen but do not push them to give details if they don’t want to.

Do not pressure your partner to have sex, sexual desire can be difficult to achieve for someone who has been sexually assaulted. Give your partner time and space to feel comfortable with intimacy, remember your partner has had an experience of boundaries being violated. Your partner needs to feel comfortable about saying “no” when they want to. 

Talk to each other and learn about potential triggers that affect your partner and try to be sensitive to them. Try to educate yourself on the impacts of sexual assault, this will help you to understand what your partner may be going through. If however, you feel the grief of the sexual assault is overwhelming and affects your partner with their day-to-day living, you may want to encourage your partner to consult with a health professional.

Things to consider if dating someone who has previously been a victim of sexual assault

Firstly it is important for them to know that you believe them, it takes a lot of courage for the victim to disclose their assault to you. Know that the relationship will not be easy, your partner may have not recovered from the trauma and will need some support. Give your partner time to heal from their experience, this means not pushing your partner to do anything they’re uncomfortable with.

Learn about the effects of sexual assault to give you a better understanding of your partner’s feelings and emotions. You may consider counselling to help you both through this, there are many organisations who can support you both through this.

How to help a friend or family member who has fallen victim to sexual assault

It can be difficult to find out someone close to you has been sexually assaulted, however it is important that you are mindful of your own strong emotional reactions. Remember the victim has trusted you by disclosing their assault, they need to know that you believe them and will be there for them.  The best thing you can do is to listen to them without judgement and show unconditional support, knowing that they will have their good and bad days.

Try and educate yourself on the victim’s experience so that you can understand them better. Do not try to push the victim to do anything that they don’t want to do, whether it be to give details of the assault or report it to the police, respecting their choice is very important. You may find they could benefit from professional support and might suggest this to them.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help a victim is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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