If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, you can be of help. In the aftermath of a sexual assault, the victim may be experiencing fear, insecurity and frustration and be needing care and support from others. You, as a friend (or spouse or family member) can play an important role by providing reassurance and support.
Allow your friend to reflect upon what has happened and the feelings experienced, but do not press for details. Let her/him set the pace. Listening is one of the best things you can do at this time. In short, be a trusted friend.
If your friend has not received medial attention, encourage her/him to do so. For additional help and support contact the local law enforcement agency or campus security. Accompany your friend to the medical facility and expedite medical attention. It is important to know that there is a possibility that the medical facility will notify the police. However, it will be up to the victim to make a final decision as to whether a formal police report will be initiated.
You can be a valuable resource to your friend by seeking out and providing information that will assist in understanding available options. For example, you can let your friend know that reporting the rape and collecting evidence does not automatically lock her/him into pursing prosecution of the offender. What it does do is assist the police in identifying the method and possible identity of the assailant. Since rapists tend to rape more than once, any information that can provided may prevent the sexual assault of someone else.
Making the decision to report a sexual assault to the police, and undergo the subsequent processes of evidence collection and possible judicial proceedings, will be very difficult for your friend. And although it is only natural that you want to give advice, you must avoid trying to control the situation. A sexual assault victim needs to regain control and must be allowed to make her/his own decisions.
Whatever decisions are made, your friend needs to know that she/he will not be judged, disapproved of or rejected by you. The sexual assault victim suffers a significant degree of physical and emotional trauma both during and immediately following the rape, and can continue to remain for a long time. By being patient, supportive and non-judgmental you can provide a safe accepting climate into which your friend can release painful feelings.
Sometimes friends or family members take the sexual assault of a loved one very personally; almost as if the assault had happened to them; losing perspective and sight of the real victim. They feel resentment or anger and unleash this anger on the victim and everyone in general. And sometimes their sense of frustration and helplessness is pitted against a powerful urge for revenge.
Do not make the mistake of discounting or ignoring your emotional responses. It is very important to realize that you too are responding to an unwanted crisis. You are trying to understand what has happened and adjust to unfamiliar realities. Therefore, do not hesitate to take advantage of support services in your community which offer counseling for sexual assault victims and their significant others.
You may be asked to testify in judicial proceedings regarding your friend's remarks, actions and state of mind, especially if you were one of the first people she/he approached. Jotting down a few notes may prove to be of benefit later.
Valencia College offers prevention education programs through the Peer Advisor program. Sexual Assault Awareness Week will be held in September each year. For information contact the Peer Advisor's Office.