OAESV SURVIVOR SERIES: Supporting a Loved One Who’s Been Victimized

If someone you care about has been sexually victimized, you may be dealing with a host of difficult emotions, including anger, sadness and confusion.  Even though the assault/abuse did not happen to you personally, you have likely been traumatized by it.  Rape crisis centers exist not only to help your loved one, but also to help you.  Please consider talking with someone.  If you do not find the information you need on this website, please call us at 216-658-1381or 888-886-8388, or email us

In terms of supporting your loved one, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Nearly all survivors of sexual violence fear not being believed by others, especially those they love.  Even if you have doubts about what happened to your loved one, it’s important that you tell your loved one that you believe him/her, and that you interact with him/her accordingly.
  • Most survivors also feel some degree of blame for what happened, whether that sense of responsibility comes from themselves or others.  It’s important that your loved one knows that you do not blame him/her for the assault/abuse.  No matter what your loved one did or did not do before, during or after the assault, it is not his/her fault that it happened.
  • It’s normal and understandable for loved ones of survivors to feel angry and want the person responsible to be held accountable.  It’s also normal for loved ones to want to “fix” things.  Survivors have their power and control stripped away when they are victimized; one of the best things loved ones can do for survivors in the aftermath of violence is to allow survivors to make their own decisions, to every extent possible.
  • Survivors of sexual violence react in ways that may seem irrational or abnormal to those around them.  It’s important that you give your loved one the time and space he/she needs to recover in his/her own way.  Be open and available, but do not push your loved one to talk about what happened.  When in doubt about what you should say or do, ask your loved one what would be most helpful to him/her.  If you have concerns about how your loved one is reacting and how you should respond, contact your nearest rape crisis center for advice.