How To Help Survivors

Be Supportive & Accepting

It can be very difficult for individuals who are close with someone who has been sexually violated. You may be a parent, a partner, a friend, a sibling, or other family member and it is very likely that you will have your own feelings about what happened to your loved one. You may feel a range of emotions, like sadness, anger, frustration, fear, or anxiety. However you are feeling is normal, just like however the survivor feels is normal. This is key.

Sexual violations can feel very difficult to deal with emotionally. As time passes, significant others may begin to think, ‘why can't they get over it?' It is important to recognize that working through these feelings takes time. Survivors need their family and friends to respect their coping mechanisms, whatever they may be, and to provide a supportive environment. This is essential to the healing process. We can help facilitate better understanding in these situations.

Significant others need to remember that the sexual violation was not the survivor's fault. It was not something they wanted, caused, or could have prevented. Knowing and believing this helps support the survivor.


People's responses to the traumatic event change as time passes... Once victims have regained a sense of physical safety, they can assess the damage and begin to adjust or assimilate—a process that may take months or years. It is primarily their social context that re-establishes the feeling of safety vital for successful recovery. Such support may come from anybody who can help when one's own inner resources fail. This initial social response will shape the way the victim comes to perceive the safety of the world and the benevolence or malevolence of others. If people in the social environment refuse to step in when a person's own resources are exhausted, this may become as great a source of devastation as the original trauma itself...

Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD
In Terror's Grip: Healing the Ravages of Trauma

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