Other people’s reactions

A lot of women fear that no-one will believe them and that they will be blamed. This is because of the myths about sexual assault. These myths and traditional attitudes may influence how other people respond to this kind of crisis. How your partner, family or friends react can make a big difference to how you will feel.

People you talk to may react thoughtlessly, saying unhelpful things like: “Why didn’t you run or scream?” or “Why did you invite him in for coffee?”. This is usually because they are overwhelmed by a wish that the assault had not happened, or being influenced by the myths about rape. Hearing about your experience may trigger memories or feelings about their own experience of sexual assault.

They might want to catch the rapist and punish him themselves. They may want revenge. They may feel angry, helpless, confused, sad and hurt, or blame themselves for not being able to protect you from the assault.

If someone says – “I don’t know what to say”, they are probably feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to give you the support you need. It is not up to you to try to make them feel better.

Sometimes these feelings are directed at you, leaving you feeling responsible for their pain. A common response from partners and friends is to want to take control, to make decisions for you, to help you “get back to normal”. It’s important to understand that, no matter how other people react, it is your feelings and your needs that count.

It is more helpful if those close to you understand and respect your need to do whatever you think is necessary to feel in control of your life. You may also need time to make your own decisions without pressure. Rape Crisis workers can talk to family and friends to help them understand their reactions so they can support you better.

As with any personal tragedy, it usually helps to be able to turn to a network of people you trust. Family and friends can often fulfill this need but you may feel that you can trust some of your friends and family members to react in a more sensitive way than others. It is up to you to choose who you tell about the rape and what you tell them.

If there is no-one in your life with whom you want to trust your feelings and experiences, or if you simply feel you want more support, you can contact Rape Crisis workers who will believe you and respect your feelings and the choices you make.

Talking with supportive people can help to release feelings like self-blame or fear. Only you know how you feel, but other women – many women – have had similar experiences. You can get good help, the help you deserve. If you find some people in your life unsupportive, keep looking.

Good support is available.