As a partner/ friend/ family member, how can I help a rape survivor?
- Believe the person
- Listen with compassion and nonjudgement
- Validate the emotions the survivor is expressing to you
- Express the strong emotions you may feel in a controlled way
- Offer practical support, like going with to the police station and any other things that may be overwhelming for the survivor
- Encourage the survivor to seek medical attention and offer to go with
- Call and make plans with them
- Let them know you are thinking of them
- Let them know you are always available to talk but also be comfortable with silence
What to say:
- I am sorry this happened to you
- This wasn't your fault
- Thank you for telling me
- I am always here if you want to talk
- Can I do anything for you?
- You are not alone
Helping and not hindering healing
Don't pressurise the person into reporting the rape. You can encourage it but it is their decision. Don't imply, by questions you ask, that the rape was somehow the survivor's fault. Don't ask questions about what they were doing, wearing, why they responded in the ways they did around the attack. All of these imply can reinforce the idea that somehow the survivor could have avoided it.
It is NEVER the survivor's fault.
If the survivor doesn't want to talk about it, don't push for details - it makes them feel more uncomfortable than they already do.
What not to say:
- You shouldn't have gone to....
- You told me you never trusted that person...
- Its been so long - just put it behind you
- It happens to lots of people
- Are you sure it was rape?
Remember as a secondary survivor, you are also affected
- Be conscious of the myths around rape, and don't allow these to colour how you see the survivor
- Recognise your own feelings about the rape and take space to process them. You can only support somebody else if you are healthy yourself
- Find the healthy balance between being supportive and being overbearing
- Don't be afraid of silence
- Be honest in your responses.
Only the survivor can determine the pace of their healing journey. It is about their personal process of working through the experience, drawing on their own internal resources to make sense of it, release the fear, guilt, self-blame, shame and anger and grow through the experience to a place where the memory of the rape will no longer have the same effect on them. They may still feel emotional at times but are will be in a place of being able to move forward and reclaim control over their body, their well-being and their life.