Basic Advice to Assist the Victim

Following are some helpful tips for supporting and assisting a person who has been sexually assaulted:

  • Help the person feel empowered. Pressuring him or her to take or not take action may further contribute to feelings of helplessness or powerlessness. Even if her/his decisions are in contrast with your own personal feelings about the situation, allowing the person to choose the next steps helps her/him begin to regain a sense of control.
  • Make sure that the person knows that the decision to take judicial or legal action rests with her/him.
  • Make sure that the person knows that a medical exam is recommended to protect against the possibility of contracting an infectious disease, including AIDS, an unwanted pregnancy and/or the possibility of internal damage.
  • Explain that showering, brushing teeth, chewing gum, douching, changing clothes, drinking fluids or urinating before a medical exam may destroy important physical evidence.
  • Make sure that the person knows that having a medical exam does not commit her/him to pressing charges; but enables her/him to do so in the future, if s/he so chooses. Remind the person that it’s possible to collect evidence and receive antibiotics and emergency contraception for up to 96 hours after the assault. Beyond that time, a medical exam to test for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy or internal injuries is still important and recommended.