The effects of sexual violence extend far beyond the primary survivor. Friends, family members, and loved ones can be profoundly affected when someone who they care about experiences sexual assault or abuse.
It is important to recognize and address your own reactions to the assault or abuse of a loved one so that you can provide support rather than possibly traumatizing them further. How you react may depend on factors including the nature of the assault, the age of the survivor, and your relationship to them.
You may experience some or all of these feelings:
The most important thing that you can do for a survivor is to believe them and remind them that they are not to blame for what happened to them. From there, take your cues on how to help from them. Ask the survivor what they would like you to do to be supportive. Helping survivors regain their sense of control is important; give them time to decide how they want to proceed legally or otherwise.
There is support available for you, too. SARA's services are available to friends and family members, even if the victim/survivor does not want services. Be patient with your loved one and yourself as you both heal.