When helping a friend/family member through a crisis situation, remember:
Stay calm. You can do this! Just listening can be so helpful. Remember, they may just want to talk. The fact that they have come to you is HUGE. That shows that they already know you will be there for them.
Listen. Believe. Support.
1) Listen to the survivor. You may be the first person the survivor encounters after the incident. He/she may not want to discuss this with anyone else after you, so it is important to listen carefully to what the survivor is saying. Do not interrupt or ask questions; do not offer the resources you know quite yet, just listen without judgment.
2) Believe the survivor! This is extremely important. It is estimated that people are more likely to fake their own death than lie about a sexual assault. Believe what they said happened, how they say it happened. We can help you discuss any discrepancies with our staff later if need be.
3) Support whatever the survivor chooses to do next, even if that means they only want to tell you and try to move on. It is important to give them resources and options, and that they know they can pursue these options at any time. (Click here for some options a survivor has)
Some offices/numbers for a person in crisis:
- University Hospital: (573)882-4141 (ask for ER charge nurse then for a SANE to be paged)
- MU Counseling Center: (573)882-6601
- RSVP Center: (573)882-6638
- True North 24/7 Hotline: (573)875-1370
- MUPD: (573)882-7201
- Columbia Police Dept: (573)874-7652
Often we want to help, but we can sometimes be insensitive to a survivor’s needs without really intending to do so. There are some things that we can say that unintentionally convey the wrong message.
This is a list of some of the common reactions victims/survivors may experience as a result of sexual assault. Each individual will react in her own way. There is no “right” way to react.
*These are normal reactions and, although painful, are parts of the healing process.
Guilt, self blame
Difficulty making decisions
Changes in appetite
There are some common reactions you may experience when learning your friend has been sexually assaulted. You may also experience a range of other emotions. Family and friends may be the best support for a victim/survivor.
- Disbelief: Family and friends may react to the sexual assault of a loved one with shock and disbelief, especially if there are no visible signs of the attack. You may even doubt that the assault happened. This is called “denial” and it happens after a traumatic experience.
- Fear: You may feel intense fear for yourself or for the survivor. You may want to protect her from future assault. Your concern may be reassuring soon after the assault, but too much caution on your part can make it difficult for the survivor to feel capable and in control again.
- Depression: It is normal to feel sad or depressed. Sexual assault can bring up feelings of powerlessness in victims and those who love them. You may feel that your life is out of control. If depression lasts longer than a few weeks or becomes overwhelming, seek support for yourself.
- Guilt: Guilt is a common reaction when a loved one has been sexually assaulted. Those closest to the survivor may blame themselves. Whatever you did or did not do, you are not to blame. It is solely the fault of the perpetrator. Instead of blaming yourself, concentrate on the positive things you can do now.
- Anger: Often loved ones experience anger after a sexual assault. Your first reaction may be to seek revenge against the attacker. This is a normal feeling, but you will not help yourself or the survivor if you are hurt or in jail. Sometimes you may feel anger towards the survivor, especially if she did something you warned her not to do. If you find yourself blaming the survivor for the assault, make sure that you have someone other than the survivor who can listen to your feelings of anger. Remember, even if you feel that the survivor used poor judgment; it is the attacker who is responsible.