- Ask permission before touching or holding your partner. Take cues from your partner, and maintain open communication.
- Be patient. Changes in your sexual relationship are normal and usually temporary. Be sensitive and understanding to your partner.
- Don’t doubt your own adequacy or become angry if your partner is not as responsive as usual.
- Your partner needs to be given the chance to regain his or her sense of personal control. Do not demand or pressure your partner into sexual activity. Resuming sex “as usual” may not be the best way of moving the healing process forward.
- It is also important not to avoid any display of intimacy or affection. This may be interpreted by your partner that s/he is undesirable to you. There are many ways to express intimacy without being sexual.
- Do not rush sexual contact. Allow your partner to make his or her own decisions around initiating sexual contact. It is important that you allow your partner to decide a pace and intensity of sexual contact that feels most comfortable to him/her.
- Accept the fact that your partner’s renewal of sexual interest may occur at a slow pace. (It is also possible that your partner may become more sexual than before the assault. Continue to communicate about any shifts in your sexual relationship).
- Discuss the subject of sex in a non-sexual environment (i.e., not in bed).
- Talk with people you can trust. You too need support from others.
- If you are male and the survivor is female, do not take personally that any hatred she expresses toward men. If the perpetrator was a man, her anger with the perpetrator may generalize into a temporary anger toward all men. This is normal and understandable given the circumstances.
- Talk to a counselor or call a rape crisis hotline (SFWAR’s RAPE CRISIS HOTLINE IS 415-647-7273). It is hard to witness someone in emotional pain. Take care of yourself as you help the survivor.
- Educate yourself about rape and rape prevention.
- Do not expect to be able to make the survivor feel better all of the time.
- Do not blame the survivor. Even when you feel poor judgments were made by the survivor, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted or abused.
- Do not blame yourself. The only person who is at fault is the person who committed the crime.
The survivor may, or may not want to seek medical or legal attention immediately. It is extremely important to respect whatever decision s/he makes. If the survivor decides to seek medical attention, you can offer to accompany the survivor to the hospital. If s/he declines your offer, don’t take it personally.
In San Francisco, survivors can receive free medical attention by going to the Emergency Department at Zuckerburg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center at 1001 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110. At the Emergency Department survivors are seen by nurses from the Trauma Recovery Center / Rape Treatment Center.
Five days is the maximum time period in which forensic evidence (including drug testing), and emergency contraception (morning-after pill) can be administered.
Three days is the maximum time period for medical HIV prevention treatment (commonly called “PEP”.)
STD screening and treatment can be offered at any time. If five days have passed since the assault, and you would like medical treatment call the Trauma Recovery Center / Rape Treatment Center at 415-437-3000.
During the medical exam, if the survivor wishes to pursue legal action, s/he may have forensic evidence collected, and choose to make a police report at this time. The police department will process or hold evidence from a sexual assault exam. The longer the survivor waits to press charges the less likely any legal action will be taken against the perpetrator. In other words, the sooner a survivor presses charges, the stronger his or her case will be.
Essential information on what to do if you or someone you know has been assaulted.
- Be a good listener. If you find yourself talking more than the survivor, you are probably not listening enough. Let the survivor talk about the incident, but don’t force a discussion.
“I don’t want to pressure you to talk about this if you don’t want to, and I want you to know that I’m here for you and ready to listen if you want to talk about what happened.”“If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine. I just want you to know that I’m here for you if you need me.”
- Believe what the survivor tells you. Talk, listen, respect and be emotionally available to the survivor. Accept the fact that the assault/abuse happened.
- Validate the survivor’s feelings. Explain that what s/he is feeling and experiencing is completely normal and acceptable.
- Understand and tell the survivor that what happened is not the survivor’s fault.
- Listen non-judgmentally. Ask the survivor what kind of support s/he wants and needs. Honor and respect these needs.
- Recognize and own your biases about sexual assault and rape. Be careful to leave your own judgments out of the conversation.
- Make sure the survivor is safe and physically well.
- Recognize that you cannot fix the survivor. Don’t feel as if you need to have all the answers. Respect the fact that every survivor is an expert in his or her own healing process.
“I don’t really know what to say, but I’m your friend and I believe you and will support you in whatever decision you make.”
- Suggest options to the survivor (medical, psychological and/or other assistance), but let the survivor decide what action to take.
- Ask the survivor if s/he wants feedback on conversations or if s/he just wants you to listen.
- Respect and understand that the survivor may temporarily become distant from loved ones.
- Assure the survivor that you will be available to provide support throughout the process of recovery.
- Give the survivor time to heal. Be patient and understand that the healing process takes time.
- Don’t give up on the survivor!
- Moderate your natural tendencies to become overprotective.
- Get support for yourself
Warning signs of abusive behavior:
- Blames others for their problems or mistakes. Your partner is unwilling to take responsibility for their actions and the effects those actions have on others. For example, deciding to hang out with you instead of doing their homework and then blaming you for getting a bad grade.
- Breaking promises/dishonesty. You catch your partner in lies all the time. For example, he/she says they can’t go out with you but then you hear from someone else that they were at a party.
- Jealousy/controlling behavior. Your partner keeps tabs on you all the time. For example, they are always demanding to know where have you been, who you talked to, what someone said to you, what you did, or when you came home. He/she may even frequently call you at all hours of the day to check up on you. They are possessive and don’t want you to be friends with others, or spend time with others. This type of behavior should not be mistaken as “real love.”
- Criticizing. Your partner is always picking on you, sometimes even in front of other people, making negative comparisons between you and others. They don’t like the way you walk, talk, dress, drive, or eat, etc. Nothing you ever do is right or good enough.
- Doesn’t listen to you. Your thoughts, feelings, activities or interests are dismissed and treated as unimportant or trivial.
- Sexist attitude. Your boyfriend puts down women as a group and makes sexual comments about women in front of you.
- Pushes sex. Your partner makes the issue of sex a constant hassle and is only interested in their own satisfaction. He/she may force, manipulate, or coerce you to have sex when you don’t want to, believing that they should get it when they want it. He/she may often use the phrase, “If you loved me, you would say yes.” Both partners need to respect each others boundaries and ensure there is mutual consent before engaging in sex; anything other than “yes” (ex: “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure” or “Maybe”) should be treated as a “no.”
- Physical violence. Your partner uses physical threats and violent behavior to intimidate and control you. For example, hitting, punching, pushing, pinching, shoving, kicking, etc. According to a study by Kids Health, 1 in 11 high school students report being physically hurt by a date.