HOW TO HELP A LOVED ONE

SUPPORTING A LOVED ONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Do's and Don'ts

  • DO believe your loved one.
  • It is a common reaction to want to seek revenge; however, calm and reasoned judgments are needed. DO NOT attempt to contact the perpetrator. This may cause legal problems and increase your loved one's fears and anxiety.
  • DO let your loved one be in control of who knows about the assault.
  • DO NOT attempt to "take charge." Your loved one must regain a sense of control over her/his life and should be encouraged to make her/his own decisions.
  • DO communicate to your loved one that the rape or sexual assault was not her/his fault and that you do not equate the rape or sexual assault with an act of infidelity or immorality.
  • DO NOT accuse or judge your loved one in any way. How she/he feels needs to be your primary concern.
  • DO take care of yourself.
  • DO NOT direct your feelings of anger and frustration (common reactions) towards your loved one.
  • DO encourage your loved one to seek professional help.
  • DO NOT expect or demand immediate and open communication about what happened or how your loved one feels.
  • DO follow up with your loved one regularly if she/he is considering suicide. Ask others for help and advice (counselor, resident advisor, professors, etc.)

Conversations

  • Be patient and approachable.
  • Be sensitive to their feelings.
  • Show unconditional acceptance.
  • It will be important to discuss the impact of the assault on your relationship.
  • Do not force them to discuss their feelings until they are ready.
  • Consider relationship counseling.