Supporters of People Who Have Been Sexually Assaulted


Supporters of People Who Have Been Sexually Assaulted

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre

If someone chooses to tell you that they have been assaulted then they are investing a lot of trust in you. Your reactions are important. The attitudes and responses of those closest to a person who has been assaulted has the capacity to either extend the crisis, or to help them deal with it. Above all, a person who has been assaulted needs:

  • To be believed
  • To be told it is not their fault
  • To be listened to
  • To be allowed the time and space to make their own decisions about how to deal with it


It is normal to be upset, angry and confused. You may feel a strong urge to “do something” about the assault. You may wonder whether they could have done something to prevent the assault, or you may feel guilty that you didn’t protect them from what happened. You may have a strong urge to “take charge” in order to protect them.


You might want to catch the perpetrator and punish them yourself – revenge is a common reaction. All these feelings are understandable, but they are your feelings and you are not the one who was assaulted. If your feelings, such as the desire for revenge, are expressed in an obsessive or hurtful way, they can interfere with the emotional healing of the victim. If you are feeling angry at the victim, then you are holding them unfairly responsible for what happened.


Society in general blames victims for sexual assault (instead of the perpetrator) and denies victims the support they deserve. If you are blaming them then it might help to look at your own attitudes and emotional responses. Reading the section on Myths and Facts about on this site might help you.


You may well feel helpless and frustrated and these feelings are real and painful. You will need support and understanding for how you feel about the rape. But it is not appropriate for you to expect or demand this support from the victim – family, friends and counsellors are available for that purpose. It is important for you to allow someone who has been sexually assaulted to make their own decisions and for you to support those decisions. If you are available for someone to talk to when they need to and if you are listening in a truly non-judgmental and sympathetic way, then your support and love will be invaluable.