Help a Loved One
The psychological impact of sexual violence is severe even if the victim did not suffer any physical injuries. During the sexual assault, your loved one was helpless and had no control over what happened. Victims often believe that they were going to die. These feelings are devastating and continue after the assault ends. Recovery is a slow rebuilding process. You can help your loved one's recovery by taking the following steps:
- Believe what she tells you about the sexual assault.
- Reassure her that the assault was not her fault.
- Ask her what she needs from you.
- Listen when he needs to talk.
- Allow her to talk about as much of the assault as she is comfortable with.
- Allow her to experience the pain.
- Know that you cannot fix her or change what happened to her.
- Encourage and support him in seeking professional help.
- Be prepared for setbacks in his recovery.
- Allow him to choose who is told and when.
- If the victim is your partner, let her decide when and at what pace to resume sexual contact.
- Let him make his own decision about whether or not to report to the police.
- Support her for surviving. Keep in mind that fighting back during a sexual assault may not always seem like an option. Victims may feel that their chances of surviving are better if they do not resist. Whatever decision she made at the time of the assault was the right one for her.
Sexual assault is traumatic for all involved. You, too, may feel victimized by the assault and experience feelings such as confusion, anger, shock and disbelief. It is important to know that these are normal reactions. You may blame yourself for not being able to protect your loved one. Know that the only person to blame for a sexual assault is the assailant. Even if your loved one chooses not to seek counseling, you can get help for yourself. Support is available at SATC for family members and partners, as well as victims. In the long run, helping yourself may help your loved one.
For those interested in how to help a child who has been abused, refer to "How to Respond When a Child Discloses Sex Abuse" in our Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Toolkit for additional information.