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Helping a Rape Survivor - Tips and Resources

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Updated November 30, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

How Can You Help When Someone You Know Is Raped?

Rape victims experience a broad range of powerful emotions--a friend or family member can help by allowing her to express these feelings. You can help by listening and validating her fears and feelings; by helping her make changes to her environment that make her feel safer. Rape victims often feel unsure of themselves and their ability to make decisions. Encourage her if she finds it difficult to make decisions by helping her to understand her choices, but let the decisions be her own.

Remind her that the rape was not her fault. Advocate for her when she needs your help facing the medical and legal systems. Let her know that you believe in her, and that you know that she has the strength and courage to heal and survive.

Getting Help: The Key to Being a Rape Survivor--Not a Rape Victim

Many years ago, I had a roommate who told me she had been raped several months before she moved in with me. She trembled and stuttered as she relived her terrifying ordeal. As she described each agonizing detail, her lips began to swell--swelling to the point I wanted to call for help. She declined my offer to find help, saying she would be alright. I hope she is...

Survivors of rape often experience changes in their overall health. Sleep disorders such as insomnia or eating disorders often occur following rape or sexual assault. Some women experience nightmares and flashbacks. Others encounter body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most common disorder seen in victims of rape or sexual assault. Rape victims sometimes experience anxiety, depression, self-injury, and/or suicide attempts, as well as other emotional disorders. They sometimes try to cope with their feelings by indulging in alcohol or drugs.

Women who have been raped, many times, face an enormous uphill emotional battle to regain self-respect, self-esteem, self-assurance, and self-control. It is a battle that can be won with the help of caring and supportive friends, family, counselors, and physicians.

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) provides a toll-free 24-hour hot line for victims of sexual assault at 1-800-656-HOPE. RAINN also maintains a searchable database of rape crisis centers designed to help you find counseling in your area. There is hope--but you must take the first step and ask for help.

Source:

Sexual Assault. Womenshealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/sexual-assault.cfm. Accesed 08/20/2009

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