Friends and Family
If someone you know has told you they have been raped or sexually assaulted, the most important thing you can do is to listen to them and believe what they say. Survivors can fear the impact that their disclosure will have on their life and on those closest to them: they might be ignored, judged or not believed. They have been incredibly brave in disclosing to you.
Supporting a friend, family member or partner who has experienced sexual violence can be difficult, even overwhelming at times. When a person has been raped or sexually abused it can affect how they think, feel, behave and see the world and those around them, which can be difficult for those around them to understand or cope with. Family, friends and partners can also experience many confusing feelings of sadness, frustration, guilt, loneliness, helplessness and/or shock. These are all very natural responses to seeing someone you care about hurting.
- Believe what they tell you. Survivors rarely lie about sexual violence and if they sense disbelief they might never tell anyone again. Traumatic events can sometimes cause memory problems; if they seem to contradict themselves at times, or add new facts, this doesn’t mean they are making the whole thing up.
- Let them say what they need to say in their own time, in their own words. It takes a great deal of strength and courage both to survive and to talk about experiences of sexual violence; acknowledge that.
- Help them to make their own choices by exploring options with them. An important part of dealing with the powerlessness of sexual violence is learning to feel in control again, so try not to do anything which takes control away from them.
- Remember it’s not their fault. Affirm the fact that they used survival skills to stay alive, and that compliance is not consent. No survivor should ever be blamed for what has happened to her – it is the fault of the perpetrator.
- Take your needs seriously and seek support for yourself or make sure you set aside time to look after yourself.
- Never doubt what they tell you about her experiences. It may be very difficult to believe that such a terrible thing has been done, especially if you know the perpetrator, but the truth is survivors rarely lie about sexual violence.
- Never trivialise or dismiss their feelings or experiences. It may be easy to compare it to something more terrible, perhaps that someone else has experienced, but saying things like ‘it could be worse, it wasn’t as bad as…’ is never helpful. Recognise the pain they are going through.
- Do not expect them to react in any one way. Everyone deals with the effects of sexual violence differently and at their own pace. Even if you have been through similar experiences, everyone reacts differently, so do not be surprised if they react and cope in their own unique way.
Remember, you are not a miracle-worker.
Remember, you are not a miracle-worker. The best you can do is let them know that you care about them and are there if they wants to talk. More information on supporting a person you care about can be found here:
Information & Resources
What is Sexual Violence
PRCCG offer a confidential Helpline for women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any time of their lives.