What Should I Do?

  • Published
  • By Mary Brown
  • Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Coordinator
It is tough to talk about sexual assault incidents, which makes it hard to be the support for a friend who has been assaulted. They may be embarrassed, ashamed or feel guilty - self-blame is a very common response. However, it is not their fault - be sure to tell them it's not their fault. No matter what risk reduction choices they failed to make, they didn't cause this event. Even if someone does everything right, they can still be the victim of sexual assault. It's about the perpetrator, not the victim. Don't blame your friend. Don't get angry with the victims and don't criticize or judge them. They need the support of everyone to make it through.

Care for them
Be there for them, whatever the time of day, and let them know you'll be there whenever they need you.

Listen to them
Don't avoid the topic. Let them talk as much, or as little, as they want - don't ask for details. Ask what can be done for them to best help them through this crisis. Make sure they feel safe. Suicide appears to be a viable coping option for victims of sexual assault - studies show victims of sexual assault are four times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Let them make their own decisions
A sexual assault is about power and control. When a sexual assault occurs, the victim feels helpless or a loss of control. In an attempt to be helpful, don't make decisions for them - let them take back control of their life. Let them decide when, or if, to share their story. They may be anxious about who knows what happened, or how friends or co-workers will react and how it will affect those relationships. It's important to respect their privacy and boundaries, unless it becomes an issue of their safety.

Be patient
Everyone deals with trauma differently and at different rates. They may not "get over" this event as quickly as others, and they may never be like they once were.

Take care of yourself
Being there for a friend can be difficult. Don't forget to take care of yourself; it will impact the support available that can be given. Do whatever it takes to maintain balance and relieve stress - be that exercise, a hobby, music or games.

No one expects to have to help a friend recover from a sexual assault - this is a very personal and traumatic injury that happens to someone else. No one wants someone they love to have to go through this ordeal.

Learn what resources are available
The Sexual Assault Prevention & Response 24/7 helpline is 307-773-6444. There is information on flyers and brochures, as well as books available for checkout in the SAPR office in Bldg. 242. The Safe Helpline is another resource that is available by telephone at 877-995-5247 and by texting 55-247 (within the U.S.). For more information on the Safe Helpline, visit their website at http://www.SafeHelpline.org

Military OneSource also has 24/7 service for victims of sexual assault, and have online and telephone counseling available. They can be reached at 1-800-342-9647 or http://www.airforceonesource.com, using the user ID: airforce and the password: ready. Their military crisis line is 800-273-TALK (8255). On the website, under "Military Life Topics," there's more information on sexual assault. The Rape & Incest National Network at http://www.rainn.org is another great resource for finding more information on sexual assault prevention and response.

Besides the medical, chapel, legal and law enforcement helping agencies on base, many off-base agency resources are available. Locally, there is the Cheyenne Safehouse, which has a 24-hour hotline, 307-637-7211.

If one can't remember any numbers, call 2-1-1, which is a health and human services resource. Most states have a 2-1-1 number that can be called for information. Wyoming also has the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, headquartered in Laramie, which can be reached by phone at 307-755-5481 or visit their website at http://www.wyomingdvsa.org/ (currently under construction).

Every county in the state has an office that deals with domestic violence and sexual assault - providing services for the victim. Share this information with your friend and encourage him or her to use the available professional services.