What You Can do to Provide Help for Rape Victims
No woman ever imagines they or someone close to them will be involved in a rape crisis, also called sexual assault. It’s in the news and on the minds of women who feel vulnerable and yet, when it happens, most of us don’t have any idea how to respond. There are critical things you can do to help in the immediate aftermath of rape. Here are a few ways you can offer support and help for rape victims:
Believe Her Story
One of the first things a victim of rape or sexual violence needs is someone who will believe her story. Because of the nature of the crime and the fact that so many instances go unreported, it is difficult to offer up hard statistics – but most experts feel that only 20 percent of actual rape cases are ever reported to authorities. One reason for the enormous gap between occurrences and reporting is a woman’s fear that she will not be believed.
Listen to whatever the victim is willing to share with you and write down the facts as she reports them to you. Avoid any form of judgment as you listen. In offering help for rape victims, the importance of belief in her story is hard to overestimate.
Get Her Medical Attention
A victim of rape is likely still in shock when she recounts her experience. She may not know whether or not she has been harmed. You will be doing the victim a tremendous service by getting her immediate medical attention. A medical exam will help her in several ways. First of all, it will provide clear evidence for her case against the rapist. Secondly, it will determine if medical treatment is needed and may help protect her against any possible sexually transmitted disease.
Seek Ongoing Counseling and Offer Support Throughout
A victim will experience negative thoughts about themselves and others in the succeeding weeks and months. Your patient and affirming presence is invaluable. So, too, is the help of a trained expert or counselor. Victims may not know how to identify or verbalize their inner turmoil but a counselor can gently bring issues to light and help the person work through them over time.
Sometimes, in the days following rape, a victim needs a safe place to stay. At the St. Joseph YWCA we offer no-cost shelter, food and even clothing to meet those immediate needs. We can provide transportation to the hospital for an exam or to the police station to file a report. If you want to know more about how you can offer help for rape victims, contact us at 232-4481.