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Ways to show support to a victim of sexual assault

Nov 10,2021

According to NISVS 2010 summary report, more than 18% of women and 1.4% of men have experienced sexual assault at some point in their lives in the United States. More than 50% of the female victims reported their perpetrators as someone intimate or an acquaintance. On the other hand, precisely 52.4% of the male victims reported being raped by a known person.

As a sexually assaulted person, it requires courage to come out to people and explain what happened. But when a loved one gathers the guts to come forward and share the story, it can be inexplicably overwhelming and painful to hear them out. You might not know what to say and how to say it. You might not know the proper way to react.

Hence, to show support to your loved ones, you must first try to deeply comprehend what a sexually assaulted person feels and goes through at such a threatening event of their life. What's their state of mind, and how they might react. Only then can you help them.

What is the person going through?

Every person who has experienced a traumatic event reacts differently. While some might feel anger and rage, others might become completely numb. As per the RAINN's stats, around 48% of people are assaulted while asleep, 29% while traveling, 12% while working, 7% in school and 5% while being engaged in an unknown task.

Before showing support, one must understand how traumatic it can be for a harassed person who has just gone through an assault. One event changes the whole life of a person. Here are some of the common feelings that a victim might experience:

  • Feeling disoriented and overwhelmed
  • Fearing people and any kinds of touches
  • Inability to do everyday tasks
  • Self-blaming for the assault
  • Anxiety, depression, and overthinking
  • Being silent and isolating themselves completely

When it comes to showing support to your loved ones, knowing what they are experiencing can help you take proper care. The truth is that the event has left them devastated within and without. You can only gauge and contemplate what they might be going through. Hence, to support them, here are a few ways that can help you:


According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010 summary report, people who have experienced some sort of sexual violence in their childhood or teenage, are more prone to experiencing it in their adulthood.

Therefore, whenever a friend or a loved one comes forward and tells you about being sexually assaulted, make sure you believe them and offer them support. When a sexual victim puts their trust in you, you must stand up to their expectations. Stay calm and listen to them.


Due to recent technological advancements, the modes of communication among people have increased. You can communicate with anyone from any part of the world. Receiving unwanted messages, voice calls, emails, pictures, and presents is also sexual harassment.

1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men experience stalking in the US at some point in their lives. Most often, people ignore these incidents. However, when someone comes and shares something like this, you must encourage them to understand the situation and take action over the matter. Staying shut should never be the option.


More than half of the total sexual assault cases stay unreported in the US. There can be various reasons for the same. While some do not want to get the perpetrator in trouble as the offender is an acquaintance, the others do not feel the police can help them and consequently choose not to report. 

When someone you love has experienced any sort of sexual harassment, try to give them the courage to report their case. Make the victim feel that they are not alone and what happened to them matters. 


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the most common results after getting sexually assaulted. In such a mental health condition, the person experiences intense fear post the traumatic event. The condition can result in fatigue, nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks, body ache, and other symptoms that can differ from person to person.

As an individual, when someone shares their experience with you, then you must listen and support them. However, you are indeed no expert, and in the course of showing support, your mental health can as well be impacted. Hence, make them understand the significance of seeking professional mental help.

It's difficult to even imagine the pain and hardships your friend or relative is going through when they come to you to talk about the assault. Sometimes, being available is the only source of support that you can provide to someone. The process of coming out of the mental trauma can be long, but make sure to offer them a helping hand as and when required. Let them know that their story matters, their pain matters, and they are not alone.