Help for Rape Victims When You Don’t Know Where to Start
Hearing that a loved one has been the victim of a sexual assault can come with waves of emotions that leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Finding help for rape victims begins in the first moments, and much of your initial response can shape the process. Here’s what you need to know:
Avoid criticism: Don’t use any language that implies or outright states that the rape was somehow your loved one’s fault. No behavior invites sexual assault. In many cases, a victim will experience shame and self-blame over the incident, so they will only be hurt more by any implications that their behaviors caused the rape.
Don’t take control, but make them feel safe: It takes a high level of sensitivity to help a victim of rape feel safe, without making them feel threatened by a lack of control over their bodies and feelings. Express that you are there for them, that you will help them be safe and feel safe and that you’re ready to assist them in getting physical and emotional help.
Go alongside them as they seek medical help: Encourage your loved one to seek medical care as soon as possible, and offer to go with them. Be careful, though, not to speak for them as they communicate with doctors and police officers. As you work through this process with your loved one, you may be feeling intense anger. Save the expression of that anger for when you are not with your friend or family member so that she doesn’t bear the stress of your emotions.
Seek out victim services: Once the initial medical exam and police report have been finished, you will want to help your loved one to seek out victims’ services. They will benefit from trained counselors and practical help that will aid the initial steps in healing. It may require a change in residence or help finding a different job, depending on the circumstances of the assault.
The YWCA of St. Joseph provides victim services to help sexual assault victims rebuild their lives. Many victims visit our shelter after using the 24-hour crisis hotline, staffed by trained Shelter employees. YWCA victim advocates are available at MOSAIC for immediate assistance/advocacy. Note: Reporting to police can be anonymous. MOSAIC can identify evidence and then with work of an advocate so that a victim can decide what’s best for them.
Our team provides case management and personal advocacy, court advocacy, support groups, life-skills groups, referrals to other services and individual therapy – all at no charge. Victims who decide not to stay at our Shelter, or have moved from the Shelter into other housing, are also welcome to access our support groups and individual therapy services at no charge.