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Finding Help for Rape Victims

Help for Rape Victims When You Don’t Know Where to Start

help for rape victimsHearing 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.

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Help for Rape Victims When You Don’t Know What to Do:

Help for Rape Victims When You Don’t Know What to Do:

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.

Immediate Resources

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.

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