QS Community Board

Health & Wellness April 12, 2018

Healing the Hurt After Rape and Sexual Assault: How You Can Help a Survivor

Katherine E., Editor

Do you know a survivor of rape or sexual assault? The impact on survivors’ lives is heavy – many carry the weight of the trauma with them for years. The rippling effects of the incident(s) influence many facets of their lives. It can be hard to know what to say to someone who confides in you about being raped or sexually assaulted, especially if that person is a close family member, friend or loved one. Read on to help the members of your community know how to respond to, promote healing and support victims of rape and sexual assault.

 Recovering from Trauma

“Getting better” can mean different things for different people. Survivors of rape and sexual assault will likely have ups and downs. They may feel frustrated for not recovering as quickly as they or other people think they should. Because healing is very personal, everyone heals at their own pace.

  • Recovery is an ongoing, gradual process, and not a matter of suddenly being cured.
  • Expect some amount of continued reaction to the traumatic event(s) – this is common and reflects how our bodies and minds are wired.

Promote Healing After Rape and Sexual Assault

Healing doesn’t mean forgetting traumatic experiences or not having emotional pain. Rather, healing means:

  • Having fewer or less-disturbing symptoms.
  • Having greater confidence coping with memories and reactions.
  • Being better at managing emotions.

So, what can you do to help a survivor?

  • Believe the person.
  • Be patient and present, since simply being there can make seeking medical attention or reporting more bearable.
  • Show respect, not pity.
  • Offer comfort and support.
  • Because rape and sexual assault take power and control away from victims, empower the survivor. This can mean letting them decide who they want to talk to about the crime (the police or a hotline, like the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline).  Just remember: ultimately, only the survivor can decide to get help.
  • Encourage the survivor to:
    • Get medical attention before washing or changing if the assault has just taken place. This can help their case whether or not they decide to press charges later.
    • Seek professional help with a trained counselor or therapist. To find local sexual assault service providers, visit RAINN.
    • Connect with other survivors of violence.
    • Report the crime (and/or press charges).
    • Practice good self-care. This means keeping their body healthy and strong, and being in tune with themselves by doing things like eating a healthy diet, sleeping well and finding ways to feel balanced and grounded.
  • Check in on him or her. Dealing with the aftermath of rape and sexual assault and beginning the journey to healing is painful and difficult.
    • If someone you know is thinking about suicide, encourage them to speak up and get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273- TALK (8255) anytime to talk to a trained staff member or chatting online at the Lifeline Crisis Chat.
    • If someone you care about is self-harming, SiOS has valuable resources that may help.

Above all, don’t abandon hope: Healing is possible, and help is available.

For more information on various sexual assault awareness products available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Recovering from Sexual Trauma: For Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault.

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