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Helping a friend or family member

Sexual assault is an extremely frightening experience that has both short and long term effects on a person.

Date rape doesn't always involve physical injury, but many victims end up feeling confused and emotionally traumatised.

Being hurt by somebody you know can sometimes be more distressing than being assaulted by a stranger, especially if you trusted that person.


How she might be feeling

It's important to keep in mind that everybody will react differently and have different ways of dealing with what happened to them.

There's no right or wrong way to feel and no 'normal' time for when she should be feeling better. She might be feeling:

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What you can do to support her

Believe her

Having somebody believe their story can make a big difference for a person who has been sexually assaulted. It can help her to deal with the experience and let's her know she's not alone.

Don't be judgemental

Avoid being judgemental or blaming her for what's happened. Being critical will not turn back the clock or change the situation. Instead, let her know that it wasn't her fault.

Be available to talk

Spend time with her and let her know that she can talk to you whenever she needs to. This doesn't mean you have to solve all of her problems or have all the answers. Sometimes simply listening to the person can be just as important.

Let her decide on taking action

It may be advisable for her to get medical help at a Sexual Assault Service, hospital, women's health centre or local doctor's surgery. She may want to talk to someone about her experience, such as a sexual assault counsellor or a help-line.

As the victim of a serious crime, she may also be thinking about reporting the incident to police. Whatever she decides to do (even if she doesn't want to take up any of these suggestions) it is important to respect her decision and support her through it.

Avoid being overprotective

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Although it's important to be supportive, being too protective is not the best way to help her. She will need to find a way to get her life back under control - something she may have to figure out for herself.

Watch your own reactions

Responding to her in a caring and supportive way is not always easy, so it helps to be aware of your own reactions too. If you feel overwhelmed or frightened yourself, get help. Talk to someone you trust or ring a service for support. She shouldn't have to deal with your feelings – she's got enough to worry about dealing with her own.

For more information

'Helping Your Child - Important Information for Parents and Carers about the Sexual Assault of Children' is a 32-page information booklet containing much use information. You can order a copy or print it as a PDF from     www1.health.nsw.gov.au/ecav/ProdRes/pamphlets/makingbetter.asp

The NSW Rape Crisis Centre also has a very useful set of factsheets about all aspects of rape, in particular a factsheet called 'My child has been sexually assaulted'.

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