How to Help After a Sexual Assault

Listen actively and patiently. 

  • Respect the person's privacy.  
  • Let the survivor set the pace of talking about the incident and the feelings it brings up.

Express support, acceptance, and reassurance. 

  • Accept that the assault happened. 
  • Accept what the survivor tells you about it. 
  • Reassure the person that it wasn’t her or his fault.
  • Let the survivor know that you care.

Encourage action but respect the survivor's decisions. 

  • Recommend that the survivor seek medical attention as soon as possible. 
  • Urge the person to consider talking to a counselor. 

Recognize your own limitations. 

  • Realize that you may not be able to make the survivor feel better. 
  • Put aside your own feelings in the survivor's presence and deal with them elsewhere.
  • Seek help for yourself if you’re feeling upset, confused, or overwhelmed.
  • Understand that it’s normal to need help figuring out how to handle your own reactions.

These words may be helpful:

  • "I'm sorry this happened to you."
  • "Do you want to talk about it?"
  • "Let me know what I can do."
  • "You don’t have to talk about it."
  • "What can I do that might help you feel better?"

Remember not to take control away from the survivor.