Advice for Family & Friends (Sexual Abuse)

What You Can Do To Help

A supportive reaction may be a vital element in the healing process, whereas a negative or judgmental reaction can compound the damage of the victimization and have an adverse effect on the healing process.

You must first acknowledge your own feelings. You may feel guilty and responsible or angry and helpless. All these feelings are normal. Some people believe rape is not traumatic unless there is physical injury. This is not so! Be certain you communicate your feelings honestly. Some victims need closeness to help them feel safe. Some spouses may fear touching the victim. The best approach is to ask the victim.

You Should

  • Believe the victim.
  • Listen without making judgments, asking questions, or giving advice.
  • Encourage the victim to make decisions regarding her life, health, and safety.
  • Be honest about your feelings.
  • Let the victim decide whether to report.

You Should Not

  • Ask why or suggest how the victim "should" have behaved. It sounds as if you are blaming the person. They need love, not blame.
  • Overprotect the victim. Making their own decisions is the first step in regaining control of their lives.
  • Take the law into your own hands. That only makes things worse for the victim. The victim does not need to worry about you being hurt or being charged with a crime. The victim will feel more secure knowing you will remain in one piece.
  • Tell the victim to "Get over it." They would if they could and are trying their best. Support them as they struggle to find their way again.