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Supporting someone who has been sexually assaulted

Rape is a crime of sexual violence that affects both women and men. When supporting someone who has been sexually assaulted, it is important to recognise that, above all, people need:

  • to be believed
  • to be listened to
  • to decide for themselves how to deal with the assault.

It is fundamental to regain a sense of control over life, as the assault may leave feelings of helplessness and loss of power.

To be believed...

This may appear to be basic but it is often the case that the person is not believed, or is questioned in a blaming or accusatory way.

To be listened to...

It is unhelpful to make assumptions about what has happened. People need to be able to tell of their experience in their own words and at their own pace.

To feel safe after the assault...

This may include providing either privacy or company as needed. Assistance to find safe accommodation may also be needed.

A non-judgemental attitude...

Do not ask 'why' questions. It is important to remember: no-one deserves to be raped.

Understanding the trauma

It is important to understand sexual assault as a life-threatening experience. The trauma is often not related to physical injury but to the threat of violence.

Assisting with information

  • about common reactions to sexual assault and understand that they are normal and to be expected
  • about the legal system and choices
  • about what would be supportive to physical wellbeing, eg. the availability of medical care.

To be supported...

Sexual violence is an abuse of power and control, and support is needed. This may include:

  • encouragement to accept help and support
  • validation of feelings and emotional reactions
  • acknowledging that healing takes time – it is unhelpful and unrealistic for this timeframe to be set by others.

 

Other rape and sexual assault topics

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