First, thank you for being there for the survivor. They are in a scary time and don’t know who they can trust. You have the power, right now, to influence the rest of their healing journey. 

ANYONE can be a victim of sexual assault. It can be perpetrated by ANYONE. It is NEVER the victim’s fault.

Studies show that how first responders and outcry witnesses interact with survivors will directly impact how the survivor will face their healing journeys. 

What Do You Need to Do Right Now?

Understand What Sexual Assault Is and What It Does to the Survivor

Know that rape can happen to ANYONE anywhere, and ANYONE can be a rapist

It is easy to assume that survivors have to fit within a certain stereotype and the rapist must also. This is not true. Any gender, sex, or orientation can rape and any gender, sex, or orientation can be raped.

Seek Out Resources to Help You Understand

Understanding sexual assault can help you be more informed to help the survivor. Knowing how to interact with a survivor is key to helping them heal. Believe them and support them — no matter how broken and confusing their story may be. Trauma can cause the mind not to remember sequence or all details.

The survivor is already doubting people will believe them. Make sure they know you BELIEVE THEM. Then help them find help, resources, and healing.

Read our page for the survivor after sexual assault.

Remember it is the survivor’s life and the survivor’s body, not yours

The survivor just went through massive trauma and needs to be able to make EVERY decision made about their body. Your job is to be there and support them, not decide what is best for them.

It may be difficult for the survivor to be touched — if they don’t want a hug, don’t take it personally, just listen to their needs.

Ask what the survivor wants you to do and then DO ONLY THAT

  • Do not “take charge” and push the survivor into anything
  • Do not threaten the perpetrator – this is a natural urge but it can scare the survivor into keeping silent or even make them feel guilty
  • Do not insist the survivor MUST report or go to therapy (if the survivor is a minor, reporting must take place no matter the survivor’s desire)
  • has tips on how to interact with a survivor and what to say:
    • “I believe you”
    • “It’s not your fault”
    • “You’re not alone”
    • “I’m sorry this happened”

Listen, REALLY listen, to the survivor

  • It’s not necessary to say anything
  • Just provide support and be sensitive if asking questions
  • Avoid judgment
    • DO NOT ASK about what the survivor was wearing or doing at the time of the assault
      • It is irrelevant and the question will only be hurtful
      • No one has a right to harm another person, no matter:
        • What the other person was wearing
        • Where they were
        • What they were doing
  • Sometimes it can help to read about what a survivor is going through to enable you to really listen