- 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.
Information for Community
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