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Supporting a woman who has been raped or sexually assaulted

Rape is a sexual crime of violence, which affects both women and men. This information is designed specifically to assist female victims of sexual assault.

Above all a woman needs two things:

  • to be listened to
  • to decide herself how to deal with the assault

The important thing is for her to regain a sense of control over her life since the assault may have left her feeling powerless.

To Be Believed
This may appear to be basic but it is often the case that she is not believed, or is questioned in a blaming or accusatory way.

To Be Listened To
Don't make assumptions about what has happened to her or how she feels about it. Let her tell you in her own words about her experience.

Women Need To Feel Safe After The Assault
This may include giving her privacy, a place to sit out of public view, or providing company if this is what she wants, assistance to find safe accommodation.

A Non-Judgemental Attitude
Do not ask 'why'questions. It is important to remember - no woman ever deserves to be raped.

Understanding Of Their Trauma
It is important to understand sexual assault as a life-threatening experience. The woman's trauma is often not related to physical injury but to the threat of violence.

To Be In Control Of What Is Happening
Let her make choices where possible. It is important that she begins to regain control over her life.

Permission To Talk About The Attack At Her Own Pace
Do not pressure the woman to tell you everything. She may not wish to discuss what happened at all. She may wish to talk to someone else.

Information About:

  • common reactions to sexual assault so that she doesn't feel like she is going crazy
  • the legal system and her choices

Information about her physical well-being eg the availability of medical care

Encouragement to accept help and support, as she may minimise her feelings about the rape or think that she doesn't deserve any assistance.

To Be Supported
Sexual violence is an act of power. The issue is that she has been violated, and she needs your support.

Validation Of Her Experience And Reactions
Women who are raped are likely to experience a range of feelings. These feelings may take a while to deal with. It is important to know that women who have experienced attempted sexual assault experience emotional reactions similar to those who have actually been raped.

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Updated April 12, 2010
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