Helping Survivors of Recent Sexual Assault/Abuse

  • Talk, listen, respect and be emotionally available to the survivor.
  • Accept what the survivor tells you.
  • Accept the fact that the assault/abuse happened.
  • Understand that it is not the survivor’s fault.
  • Listen nonjudgmentally. Suggest options and actions (medical, psychological and other assistance), but let the survivor decide what action to take.
  • Let the survivor talk about the incident, but don’t force a discussion.
  • Respect and understand that temporarily the survivor may become distant from loved ones.
  • Assure the survivor that you will be available to provide support throughout the process of recovery.
  • Give the survivor time to heal. Be patient and understand that the healing process takes time.
  • Take the initiative to maintain communications with the survivor.
  • Moderate your natural tendencies to become overprotective.
  • Encourage and accompany the survivor to obtain medical attention. If the survivor wishes to seek criminal action, this should be done as soon as possible after the incident.

Feelings you might experience while helping the survivor

In helping the survivor, here are some feelings you may experience:


  • The survivor’s dependence on you may feel overwhelming.
  • Recovery can be a long, slow process that may take years. You may fear that the survivor will never be the same again.


You may feel guilty that you did not prevent the assault/abuse. It is neither your fault, nor the survivor's. The perpetrator committed the crime – not you.


  • Your closeness to the survivor’s experience may underline the vulnerability to violence that we are all subject to. You may feel vulnerable because you realize that it could happen to you.
  • If you are the same sex as the perpetrator, you may be afraid you will be associated with the perpetrator.
  • If you are a sexual partner, you may be afraid to have sex with the survivor.
  • It is important to realize that your feelings are natural. Accept your feelings and try to understand and to get help for yourself.

How to help yourself

  • Talk with people you can trust. You too need support from others.
  • If you are a male and the survivor is a female, do not take personally any hatred she feels towards men. Her anger with the perpetrator may generalize into a temporary anger toward all men.
  • Talk to a counselor or call a rape crisis hotline. It is hard to witness someone in emotional pain. Take care of yourself as you help the survivor.
  • Educate yourself about rape and rape prevention.
  • Moderate your stress levels through activities with other friends and/or through "alone time.”
  • Do not expect to be able to make the survivor feel better all of the time.
  • Do not blame the survivor. Even when you feel poor judgments were made by the survivor — no one deserves to be sexually assaulted or abused.
  • Do not blame yourself. The only person who is at fault is the person who committed the crime.