How to Help a Friend after Sexual Assault

How To Help A Friend

Sexual assault is a violent crime and is motivated by anger and aggression, not by sexual desire or uncontrolled passion. Sometimes it is used to humiliate the victim. If someone you know has been assaulted, you can help them in the following ways.

If The Assault Just Occurred

  • Make sure the individual is safe.
  • Help the person get medical attention.
  • Offer to call Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services, the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center  or another advocacy service where professionals can assist in dealing with the trauma.
  • Offer to stay with your friend or call someone else with whom they feel most comfortable.
  • Offer to call the police is the person wants to report the rape. Reporting the assault does not mean you must prosecute, but it will ensure the availability of that option in the future, should the survivor so decide. However, do not force the person to report.

At Any Time: Immediately After Or Much Later

  • Listen to what the survivor tells you. Sometimes assault victims need to talk about the attack. Don’t interrogate.
  • Don’t blame your friend for their decisions.
  • Allow the survivor the freedom to choose when, where and how to talk about the trauma.
  • Believe the survivor. People rarely make up stories about being sexual assault survivors.
  • Be sensitive. Let the person know that you do not subscribe to any of the common myths about sexual assault. Understand that the person has suffered extreme humiliation.
  • Respect your friend’s confidentiality.
  • Be patient. Recovery from rape trauma is slow. Your friend sets the pace.
  • Realize that you have strong feelings about the trauma. If needed, seek counseling for yourself.
  • Remember that whatever the rape victim did to survive the attack was exactly what they needed to do. The victim did not cause the attack and is not at fault.

Adapted from suggestions written by Judith Sonnenberg, Psy.D.