How do I Help a Rape Victim?

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  • Written By: Lori Smith
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 22 January 2020
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Women are the most common victims of rape, although men, teenagers, children, and incapacitated individuals can also be violated and targeted by aggressors. Regardless of a person's age, gender, or physical or mental status, a sexual assault can be very traumatic for the rape victim. Unfortunately, many crimes of this type go unreported, so encourage the person to notify authorities of the attack. You should also offer the rape victim emotional support and urge him or her to seek professional counseling to aid in psychological healing.

A rape victim will often experience a host of unsettling emotions. Feelings of grief, anger, fear, and helplessness are common. The best thing you can do to help a rape victim is to offer support and understanding, letting the person know that he or she is not alone and it is not his or her fault.

The person may feel angry one moment, and then experience an extreme, overwhelming sense of loss the next. Be patient with him or her. Many times, a rape victim benefits greatly by speaking to a psychologist or therapist who specializes in working with people in similar circumstances. You can help by assisting the person locate a qualified professional in his or her area.

Feelings of terror can overwhelm and emotionally paralyze a rape victim. He or she may have trouble making the transition back to normal, daily activities following an attack. Sometimes, self-defense classes are helpful, especially if the individual feels powerless or worries about the recurrence of an attack.

Besides the emotional turmoil a rape victim may experience, there are also physical repercussions as well. Following a violent attack, the individual may suffer from pain, bruising, and potentially, broken bones. There is also a risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or even pregnancy, so prompt medical attention is imperative.

Do your best to encourage a physical examination as soon as possible following the attack. Not only will medical professionals treat symptoms and run diagnostic tests, but they may also be able to recover forensic evidence that can help law enforcement personnel prosecute the attacker. This is done with the aid of a rape kit, which collects evidence such as hair, blood, and semen from the victim and his or her clothing. The use of a rape kit is most effective when the examination is performed very soon after an attack, and prior to bathing, to avoid washing away physical evidence.

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Post 1

I've learned that some rape victims really want to feel a sense of normalcy after the traumatic event. Instead of focusing on the legal aspects or medical issues, it might help to do normal things such as shopping trips or movie nights or cultural events. It's not unusual for rape victims to relive the details of their assault if they're left alone for long periods of time. A friend doesn't have to provide non-stop entertainment, obviously, but a victim of a violent crime may benefit from an occasional mental distraction. Having a light, friendly phone conversation that doesn't involve discussing the assault would also be a good idea.

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