Friends & Family

If someone you love has been affected by sexual violence it's important to understand the feelings and behaviors she/he may be experiencing - and how you can help.


Be aware of the variety of feelings that are common for rape survivors:

  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Loss of control/powerlessness
  • Embarrassment
  • Anxiety resulting in shaking, experiencing nightmares
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Emotional shock
  • Disbelief
  • Depression
  • Disorientation
  • Denial
  • Insomnia
  • Eating disorders
  • Flashbacks

Understand that every survivor of sexual violence reacts differently.



This is how you can help:

  • Believe what the survivor is telling you; accept what you hear without judgment
  • Listen actively and openly
  • Reinforce that the rape was not the survivor's fault
  • Do not suggest that you know how the survivor feels; everyone reacts differently to trauma and you want to avoid saying anything that may appear that you are minimizing the survivor's own experience
  • Be sincere
  • Attempt to establish trust and rapport; be available
  • Look for opportunities to point out the survivor's strengths and positive aspects
  • Ask open-ended questions to elicit a full response
  • Present alternatives so the survivor can make a choice; suggest calling an advocate to locate the rape crisis center nearest you
  • Accept the survivor's decisions in dealing with the rape
  • Be aware of your limitations
  • Be careful not to play a role that is not natural to you
  • Try not to tell the survivor what to do
  • Silence is okay
  • Don't take it personally should the survivor direct negative feelings toward you
  • Do not argue with the survivor or engage in a power struggle
  • Know that you cannot "cure" anyone
  • Be patient; allow the survivor to talk when ready, at his or her own pace, including whatever details are comfortable to disclose
  • Offer support but be careful not to be overprotective
  • Do not suggest that survivor simply put the rape in the past and move on with life
  • Respect the survivor's need for privacy and time alone
  • Be careful not to trivialize the rape in an effort to ease tension
  • Do not threaten to take the law into your own hands
  • Be conscious of expressing anger if survivor waited to tell you about the rape or is reluctant to talk
  • Constantly repeat that the survivor did nothing to cause the rape; and is in no way responsible for what has happened
  • Just be there


The survivor may also suffer from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Learning more about the stages of this syndrome will help you support the survivor.


Find a Rape Crisis Center Now