How do I help other victims of rape?

Some background, some drama

Rape is a traumatic event that can severely affect someone physically and emotionally. You have a friend who has been raped. You may meet other victims of rape. They are going through a very rough time right now. They need you now more than ever. Whether someone you love or know has been raped or sexually assaulted, recovery is possible. Rape and sexual assault survivors generally recover from rape trauma at their own individual speed. It’s important to help them in their healing process and move on in their lives.

Do’s and Don’ts

There are many services to help victims heal from this trauma, including rape crisis centers, counsellors and support groups. By understanding the victim’s symptoms and after-effects, you may help them overcome the assault and continue to live a full life. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide you to help other victims of rape.

Do’s

  • Just be there for them. Show your friend that you care about them.
  • Believe them. As a friend, you have to believe them. They don't need people telling them they are wrong: they just need support.
  • Remind them that it is not their fault. They did not ask to be raped. Remind them that their trust was violated.
  • Let them be in control of who knows about it. Your friend confided in you because they trust you.
  • Encourage them to seek medical attention, no matter how long ago the rape occurred.
  • Give them the number of your local rape crisis center. Call there yourself for more advice and information.
  • If the friend/victim is under the age of 16 tell an adult as soon as possible.
  • Keep eye contact and show that you are listening to them.
  • If you think your friend may attempt suicide, tell someone immediately and get help.
  • Get them connected to counsellors or therapists to help them get over the trauma.
  • Keep them away from people who trigger negative reactions and feelings in them. Negative attitude and negative reactions from family and friends can lead to the survivor adopting avoidant coping strategies and mar their recovery.
  • Help them join a support group where they can meet other rape victims and learn how to cope.

Dont’s

  • Don't ask them a lot of questions, as they don't want to think about it. If you keep on asking questions images will keep re-appearing in their mind.
  • Don’t coerce them into doing something that they don’t believe in doing. Help them gain ability to take charge of their life at their own pace.
  • Don’t impose your thoughts, ideas or advice on them. Support them, not dominate.
  • Don’t worry about saying all the right things when you are talking to them. Your very presence will be comforting for them. Silence is okay.
  • Don’t make jokes or humiliate them even unconsciously. They just need your help and support.
  • Don’t hesitate to help them seek professional help.

Last words

The survivor still needs successful recovery from the symptoms and the trauma of rape. Empowering the survivors and preparing them to re-build their self-esteem, confidence and helping them take charge of their life again are what are essential to make the recovery successful.

Sources and citations