many of us will one day know someone who has
survived a sexual assault. This is a traumatic experience for not only
the survivor, but also for people who are close to the survivor. People
who are friends or loved ones of a rape survivor are referred to as
If you are close to someone who has been raped, you are
undoubtedly feeling a variety of strong emotions. Some of these
feelings will involve the survivor, some will involve the rapist, and
many will involve handling your own feelings. At a time when you want
to most help the survivor through his/her crisis, you may be dealing
with a crisis of your own.
Here are some suggestions on how to help the survivor, as well
as some ideas about helping yourself. Remember that although your first
concern may be to help your loved one recover, your own feelings are
extremely important and that by dealing with your own feelings, you may
be better able to provide the continuing support that he/she may need.
Ways to Help and Some Things
You Can Do
• Your major goal in dealing with the survivor is to be
supportive. Experience tells us that a survivor who receives emotional
support from those he/she is close to will make for a much healthier
and speedier recovery. Support means dealing with whatever needs the
survivor may have, and recognizing that all of those needs are normal.
He/She may want to talk with you, or he/she may want to talk to someone
else, or he/she may not want to talk at all. He/She may also have a
variety of emotional responses to the rape that may affect the way
he/she responds to you. A survivor may also act in ways that might not
be typical for that person, or might appear totally unaffected by the
assault. Remember that no matter how a survivor is feeling, he/she is
reacting in whatever way he/she needs to recover.
• When a survivor is ready to talk, really LISTEN to their feelings.
Good listening involves not only hearing what the survivor is saying
but also empathizing. A good listener doesn’t necessarily have to talk
or respond; eye and body movements or setting aside plenty of free time
to listen can show you care. Your goal isn’t to solve his/her problem,
or to tell the survivor how you are feeling. It is important to allow
the survivor to talk about whatever feelings he/she might have.
Mind The Following if You Are
the Partner of a Survivor:or
• Because the rape took away the survivor’s feelings of
control, especially in regard to sexual decision-making, this is one
area where he/she needs to be given every opportunity to regain that
sense of control. Do not demand or pressure him/her into sexual
activity. Many men and women who are survivors prefer a period of
sexual abstinence after being raped.
• Don’t be angry with the survivor or doubt your own sexual adequacy if
he/she appears less sexually responsive than previously. Give him/her
the opportunity to openly communicate to you his/her feelings about
your sexual relationship. If you display anger, frustration, or an
unwillingness to change certain patterns, you are likely to distance
the survivor from you and place an added burden on your relationship.
• A big concern may be whether the survivor has contracted a sexually
transmitted disease as a result of the rape. This is a possibility, and
can directly affect a survivor’s sexual partner. You, as well as the
survivor, should have regular checkups so that both of you can be
• Be patient. Sexual disruption following a rape is usually temporary
and can be overcome with sensitivity and understanding.
What You May Be Feeling
No matter how the rape occurred or how the survivor is dealing
with it, being close to someone who has been raped makes you feel
terrible. Because you care, you will want to do everything you can to
help him/her through this crisis and assist in the recovery. However,
it is important that you deal with your feelings about the rape. Not
everyone reacts in the same way or with the same degree of intensity
when someone they know has been raped.
Final Notes and Where to Get
You can play a major role in helping a loved one recover from
rape. It is not an easy task and it requires a lot of patience,
sympathy, understanding, real listening, and time. Your support and
belief in the survivor communicate the most important
message—unconditional love. Believe in the survivor and yourself and
trust that he/she is strong enough to do the rest for himself/herself.
Remember that your feelings are important too, and that by
talking and working through your feelings, you’ll be better able to
provide the continuing support that he/she may need. If you are
affected by the emotional upheaval in the survivor’s life and feel that
you need help in assisting the survivor, the Rape Crisis Center is hear
for you. Call us.
For information about rape, dealing with the police and legal
systems, protecting against rape, professional counseling and other
support systems, contact Northwest Arkansas Rape Crisis. All services
are free of charge, and you can reach us 24 hours a day, 365 days a
To Do After an Assault
What Can I Do If a Friend is Raped?