Family & Friends

How Family & Friends Can Help a Survivor

If you want to help someone who has been raped – first remember that healing can take a long time. It is terrible to see someone in such pain, but don’t rush them. If you are in a rush for the survivor to get better, the survivor may start to feel guilty and start to hide his/her feelings from you so that you feel better.

Free counselling is available at Rape Crisis Helderberg for survivors and their friends and family.
Write to Reinette or call her 083 484 9409
Free counselling is availablefor survivors and their friends and family.

Tips to Help a Survivor

Let the survivor make their own decisions – the survivor has experienced a situation where control has been forcefully taken away from them. Making their own decisions allows them to start to feel in control of their life again. Even if you think the decisions they are making are wrong, don’t force your them to do what you think is best. Rather encourage them to regain their sense of control and to get therapy.

Get help immediately – if the survivor is suicidal.

Believe the survivor – even if they doubt themselves, believe it. People very rarely make up stories of abuse and as they are opening up about what happened the pain they are having to feel and face is so great that they might sometimes want to believe that it did not happen. This is a part of the process of healing.

Validate their feelings – anger, pain, fear, etc. These are natural, healthy responses. They need to feel them, express them, and be heard.

Let the survivor talk – as much as or as little as they want to. LISTEN! Let the survivor know that you are open to hearing anything they may wish to share. Let the survivor take her/his time. It might not be easy for them to start talking about an event that they have kept silent about. The survivor might never want to talk to you about it. Respect their feelings and decisions. Recognise the courage it takes for a survivor to speak to anyone about it. It takes a great deal of courage to face up to fears and also to talk about any sexual experience, especially sexual abuse.

Validate the damage – join with the survivor in validating the damage and be clear that abuse is never the survivor’s fault. No one asks to be abused and the blame lies with the abuser – only with the abuser.

Give 100% loyalty – society and other people are going to say some things that will really hurt the survivor. The survivor needs your absolute loyalty.

Give the survivor time – respect the time and space it takes to heal, and encourage the survivor to get support. It can be difficult to have the patience to let someone heal at their own pace, but remember that the survivor can only do it at a pace she/he can handle and that can be very slow at times. Try to understand their perspective. Accept that there will very likely be major changes in your relationship with the survivor as they heal. Respect their need to go through stages in the healing process. If the survivor feels like crying, let them, it can be part of their healing process.

Let the survivor know how you feel – don’t hide your feelings. What you hear may shock, scare or hurt you, but let the survivor know that it is okay to feel the way they do, even though it may hurt your feelings. Try not to be scared of your emotions. You will be able to concentrate on helping the survivor more once you understand your own reactions.

Phone Rape Crisis or another help line If you are feeling worried or are not sure of what to do or if you just need to talk to someone – you may also need support, get help for yourself from someone. You don’t need to go through this alone either. You can also write to us or call us for help and advice.


Don’t judge the survivor – this will make them feel that they can’t trust you.

Don’t make the survivor support you – although it is good for you to share your feelings with them, it is important that you don’t make them feel that they must help you to feel better – they need to concentrate on making themselves feel better.

Don’t tell the survivor to “get over it”

Don’t tell the survivor that it’s not that bad

Don’t tell other people – unless the survivor has given you permission.

Don’t see the survivor as a victim – continue to see the survivor as a strong, courageous person who is reclaiming their own life.

DON’T BLAME THE SURVIVOR FOR WHAT HAPPENED – no one asks to be abused and the blame lies with the abuser – only with the abuser.

Remember that each survivor is unique and their healing process will be unique.

Remember that if a rape or sexual abuse survivor is going to recover well from the impact of the abuse, the individual must let themselves remember the abuse and feel whatever they are feeling inside. When the survivor does allow themselves to start remembering and feeling, they will also start suffering from symptoms, but these usually improve gradually over time. This process can take time and it takes a great deal of courage from the survivor. They must progress at their own speed and on their own terms and in their own time. It often helps a survivor to have counselling if they are experiencing symptoms that upset them.

Finally Remember the Best Way to Get Rid of a Feeling is to Feel it Fully!

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