HOW TO HELP - For friends and family members

The impact of sexual assault does not only affect the person who was assaulted - it can extend to family, friends, and loved ones of the survivor. The reactions of these friends and family members can make a profound impact on the survivor's healing process. If you are a loved one of someone who has experienced sexual assault, you have options for getting help and support for yourself. Contact the Women's Resource Center by calling (540) 639-1123 or Toll Free (800) 788-1123 to speak with an advocate or schedule a free and confidential counseling appointment.

BELIEVE THEM
The greatest fear of sexual assault survivors is that they will not be believed. Even if details are unclear, don’t investigate. Allow them to tell you what happened as they feel comfortable. Do not press for details of the assault. Respect their need for privacy.

LET THEM BE YOUR GUIDE
It is important to remember that sexual assault is an extreme loss of control. You should always be respectful of their choices. It is only through making their own decisions and taking control of their recovery that an assault survivor can begin to take control of their life again. Ask them to help you by telling you what they want or need.

LISTEN
They may not begin with a rush of words, so be patient. Let them tell the story at their own speed. There is no time limit on recovering from an assault.

DON’T BLAME THEM
Sexual assault is never the victims fault. They need to hear that the perpetrator is 100 percent responsible for the assault. Avoid questions that seem to blame the victim, such as, "Why didn't you scream or fight back?" or "Why did you go to his apartment?" Allow them to talk about their feelings of self-blame if they want to, but help them understand that only a perpetrator causes the assault.

COMFORT THEM
Tell them you care about them and want to help. Ask how you can help. Often there is nothing specific you can do, but reassurances can be very important. The survivor may want to be held or may not want to be touched at all. Ask for permission before touching or hugging.

RESPECT THEIR PRIVACY
The survivor should be the one to decide who should know about the assault and how they should be told. Do not share their story with anyone without the permission of the survivor.

EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT
Read about the recovery process so that you will know what to expect.

GET HELP FOR YOURSELF
You have the right to feel angry at the perpetrator and to feel sad about what has happened to someone you care about. Your feelings may be very intense. Find someone you trust to talk to about your feelings. Consider calling the Women's Resource Center to get support for yourself.

 

Options for Help