Butler County Rape Crisis Program
110 S. College Avenue, Oxford, OH 45056
How to Help
What to Do When Someone You Love is a Victim of Rape
The three basic messages that sexual assault survivors most need to hear from you are:
I believe you.|
The assault was not your fault.|
Help is available. You are not alone.||
Responding to a Recent Sexual Assault
If someone you love has recently been sexually assaulted, there is a great deal you can do to help. If the sexual assault happened recently, the situation should be considered an emergency, and there are some basic steps you should encourage the victim to take.
1. Encourage immediate medical attention. It
is vital that sexual assault victims seek emergency medical care at a local
hospital as soon as possible. A person who has been sexually assaulted may
not realize that s/he has sustained serious injuries (including closed head
injury). In addition, hospital staff are trained to collect, preserve and
document physical evidence of the assault. Emergency Department staff can
also provide counseling and treatment related to sexually transmitted
infections (including HIV) and pregnancy which may have resulted from the
2. Refer survivors immediately to the closest Rape Crisis Program
(in Butler County, Ohio, our program-- in the rest of the United States, call
1-800-656-HOPE, and in other countries, check our
Crisis Program Victim Advocates provide help, information and support
throughout the process of coping with sexual assault. Rape Crisis Program
Advocates are trained to assist survivors and their family members at local
hospitals, police departments and courts. In addition, the Rape Crisis
Program provides face-to-face counseling and a 24-hour hotline for survivors
of sexual assault and their family and friends. Once the connection to the
Rape Crisis Program has been made, it can serve as a continuing source of
follow-up support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All of our Rape Crisis Program
services are provided free of charge for sexual assault survivors.
3. Help survivors understand their options. Sexual
assault is an experience that can leave survivors feeling powerless; do what
you can to help them feel back in control of their own lives. Help survivors
reach out to the Rape Crisis Program, make sure that they have all the
information they need to make informed choices, then support their decisions.
4. Encourage survivors to seek ongoing support. Talking
about the sexual assault or its effects will help the survivor through the
recovery and healing process. Supportive family, friends and the Rape Crisis
Program Advocates can make a real difference for survivors of sexual
assault. On the other hand, unsupportive or victim-blaming comments from
family or friends can do tremendous harm to the sexual assault survivor.
Guidelines for Family and Friends of Survivors
Sexual assault can have a significant impact on those who are
in any type of close relationship with a survivor, producing confusion and
many emotions for significant others. It is painful to think about someone we
love being harmed in this way. If someone you love has been the victim of
sexual violence, there are a number of things you can do to help with the
healing process. Although you may naturally tend to focus on the survivor, it
is also important that you deal with your own thoughts and feelings about
sexual violence so that you can be most supportive. You may experience intense
reactions due to your caring for the survivor. Just as the survivorís greatest
task is self-care at this time, you will also need to find ways to take care
To be truly supportive to the survivor, you will need to
respond to the feelings that the assault raises for you. It is important to be
willing to face your own fears and prejudices about sexual violence and to
have accurate information. Our culture holds a lot of myths about sexual
assault that can greatly impede the healing and recovery of both the survivor
and their loved ones. Reading other parts of this web site may help.
How to Be Helpful
Sometimes people believe that the best way to deal with a
crisis is to deny it. You may find yourself saying, "donít worry/donít
cry/donít think about it." Such reactions can make the survivor feel unheard,
and denial may not a helpful response for many reasons. Sexual violence is
significantly stressful; to imply that it isnít or shouldnít be is
disrespectful and discounting to the survivor. And, this attitude can create
more problems than it resolves. Allow your loved one to have their emotional
Sometimes the most supportive thing you can do is to simply
LISTEN. You do not have to (and probably cannot) "fix it". This can be
difficult as it is never easy to witness the pain of a loved one. Yet often
being a supportive witness to that pain can help empower the survivor because
you demonstrate that regardless of what happened you still accept and love
them even with their reactions. If you can bear it, i.e. hearing about what
happened and being with them and their reactions, maybe they can also.
Do recognize your own limitations, and if it is too much for
you, seek help from someone trained in counseling survivors of sexual
violence. This is not a failure on your part. If the survivor becomes
actively suicidal or physically self-destructive, seek professional help
immediately to keep them safe.
We All React Differently
Men and women often react differently to the assault of a
loved one. Husbands, fathers, brothers, boyfriends may react initially with
anger and a desire for revenge. They may blame themselves, out of the desire
to have been a "better protector", and to defend against their own feelings of
helplessness. Acting on these reactions may not be helpful to the survivor.
The survivor needs you to be safe, reasonable, and supportive, in order to
assist them to take the steps necessary to heal and recover.
Female friends and family members may have their own strong
reactions of fear and vulnerability to hearing about the violence and may
consciously or unconsciously send the survivor the message to "not talk about
it". It is important to be aware of your own reactions. It is also important
that the survivor, as much as possible, has the power to make his or her own
decisions in the aftermath of the assault.
The survivor may react towards you in confusing ways. They may
seem very "unlike" themselves for awhile. Know that the individual that you
love has been deeply affected by this experience, and it will take a while for
them to sort through their thoughts and emotions. Being the victim of sexual
violence can lead us to have many questions about our ability to trust others
and ourselves. This struggle with being able to trust can impact many of our
relationships. Reading the other sections of this website directed to the
survivor may help you to better understand the trauma and aftermath of sexual
victimization; and be more helpful to your loved one.
Someone who has been sexually assaulted has experienced the
ultimate loss of power over her/his own life.
Helping your loved one to regain a sense of control over her
or his life can be very important. It is not unusual for survivors to struggle
with making even small decisions after an assault. Give your ideas but allow
them to make their own decisions even if they struggle. It is an important
step towards healing from violence. It also is important that the survivor
believe that you trust him or her to make his or her own decisions. It is
especially important that the survivor make her or his own decision around
whether or not to report the assault to law enforcement. You can provide your
thoughts about this and then let her or him choose the path. Going through the
law enforcement investigation and the criminal justice system can take a long
time, be very stressful, and ultimately may not result in a conviction. The
system is not perfect. The survivor must be the one to decide what is right
for him or her.
No matter what, it wasnít their fault.
Sexual assaults can occur under circumstances where the
survivor may have been involved in activities or behaviors that others may
question or even disapprove of (use of alcohol or drugs, going to unknown
places, not locking the doors, fighting back, not fighting back, etc.). Please
remember that a decision to participate in any of these behaviors is never the
"cause" of a sexual assault. Your loved one may have made decisions
which put her or him in a vulnerable situation. However, it is not the
survivor's fault that someone else chose to take advantage of that
vulnerability to commit a violent crime. Sexual assault is always
the responsibility of the perpetrator. Poor judgment or risky behavior does
not warrant becoming a victim of violence, or give someone else the right to
rape. Remember that breaking rules and testing boundaries are common
behaviors, especially for teenagers. Often, trying to place the "cause" of the
assault on something the victim did or didnít do is our attempt to maintain
the illusion that we can be in total control over our life. We like to believe
that as long as we never make a poor judgment, we will always be safe.
Certainly, trying to be aware and careful goes a long way towards safety, but
sexual violence is never an appropriate consequence for making a mistake. The
perpetrator chose to commit an act of great physical and psychological harm
towards another human being in the most violating and degrading way possible.
That is the responsibility of the perpetrator, and they need to be held
It may take a while.
Being the victim of or witness to violence is a significant
life stressor. All significant stressors require that people change and adapt
towards regaining life balance. The changes you see in your loved one and in
your relationship may be difficult. It may seem that it takes a long time for
the survivor and the relationship to find a new, comfortable balance. Have
patience and know that you and your loved one do not have to do this without
some guidance. You are not alone. Thousands of survivors and their families
heal and recover from sexual violence, and there are skilled supportive
services available. You will find referral sources at the back of this
About sexual intimacy
Being a victim of sexual violence may affect feelings about
sexual intimacy for some time after the incident. Sexual contact can stir up
feelings and reactions for victims, which are related to the violence. If you
are the sexual partner of the survivor try to have patience. The survivor may
desire little or no physical contact for a while or may wish to limit contact
strictly to demonstrations of affection. Remember, the survivor lost the power
to control what happened to them during the sexual violence. They need to
regain their confidence in the ability to have physical control over their
It is important to recognize the possibility of temporary
change in an intimate relationship, due to the effects of the assault. It is
often a part of the healing path following a sexual assault. Remember that
although some things may change for your partner and your relationship for a
while, most survivors recover from the trauma of sexual violence and
re-establish loving intimate relationships.
Some important things you can do:
Believe her or him.
Be yourself Ė treat the survivor
just as you normally do. Try to not be overly protective.
Express your caring and concern
for the survivor.
Allow the survivor to have her
or his feelings.
the survivor that confusing and painful feelings are to be expected.
Let the survivor know that the
assault was not her or his fault. Do
not blame or judge the survivor or her/his actions.
Remember that powerlessness is a
big issue. You may guide the survivor, but let the survivor have control of
her or his own life and make her or his own decisions about how to proceed.
Encourage, but do not force the
survivor to talk. Listen in a caring way, but donít try to "fix".
Help the survivor understand the
importance of getting medical attention, gently encourage seeking help from
those with expertise in sexual violence.
Find healthy ways to deal with
your anger, rage, and fears without further traumatizing the survivor.
Respect the confidentiality of
Learn more about the process of
healing for the survivor. Our Support for
Survivors page has a wealth of information which can be very helpful
Finally, take care of
yourself. Make sure YOU have emotional support, if necessary.
Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault booklet, Toward Healing & Justice, A
Handbook for Survivors of Sexual Assault)
More Links for Supporters of Sexual Assault
Texas Association Against
Sexual Assault Website
Coalition On Sexual Assault Website
Or see our Links
NOTE: FOR IMMEDIATE INFORMATION ABOUT HOW YOU
CAN HELP, PLEASE
CALL OUR HOTLINE (NUMBERS LISTED AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE) OR TELEPHONE YOUR NEAREST RAPE CRISIS CENTER BY CALLING (800)656-HOPE.