Helpful Information for Friends & Family

When someone you love has been sexually assaulted or abused, you may want to know:

  • What do I say?
  • What do I do?
  • How can I help?

Surviving sexual assault can be difficult for everyone. Every survivor reacts differently. It’s important to be patient with your loved one and understand that they have gone through a very difficult, traumatic event. It is just as important to take care of yourself.

You may not know what to say, how to say it or are afraid you may say the wrong thing. It’s ok! Ask your loved one directly how best you can help them. Sometimes the most important thing to a survivor is to (a) be present and (b) the support that you give them during their healing process.

The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault 24-Hour Crisis Line, walk-in and mental health services are available for both you and your loved one. You can call the Crisis Line at (520) 327-7273.

Things You May Observe:

  • You may see some changes in behavior such as an increase/decrease in sleeping or eating.
  • Your loved one may become very emotional and have drastic mood swings.
  • Your loved one may become emotionally detached or numb.
  • Your loved one may experience not feeling safe around those they once did.
  • Your loved one may want to talk a lot about what happened or they may not want to talk at all.
  • Your loved one may seem to go on with their lives unaffected.
  • Your loved one may become suicidal or talk about feeling helpless or hopeless.

What You Can Do:

  • Let them know that help is available.
  • Call 911 if the person is in immediate danger.
  • Contact the MAC Team through the Cenpatico’s Nurse Wise crisis line  at (866) 495-6735.
  • Take the person to the nearest emergency room and tell them that “She/he/they/ze is suicidal.”

If the survivor is your spouse or partner:

  • Your partner may need days, weeks, or months before being intimate. Being intimate may include touching, hugging, kissing, or having sex.
  • Do not take it personally if your partner pulls away. Your partner is responding to the memory of the assault, not to you.
  • Always listen to your partner. There may be times when your partner might decide that she or he feels ready to be intimate with you, but may suddenly change her or his mind. This is normal.
  • It is extremely important that you listen to your partner and stop what you are doing immediately if they ask you to stop or pull away.
  • Your partner needs to know that she/he/they/ze has complete control over what happens to her/his/their/zir body.
  • Tell your partner that you love and care for her/him/them/zir. Don’t ever physically force affection on your partner, even if it’s just a hug to show you care.

If the survivor is your friend:

  • Your friend may not want to talk about what happened. It may not be that they don’t trust you; it may just be that they don’t know how to put words to how they are feeling.
  • You may not be doing your normal ‘routine’ on Friday nights for a while. The survivor may not want to go out, drink alcohol or be around a lot of people.
  • Encourage the survivor to not isolate themselves, but don’t force your presence on them.
  • Most importantly, just let your friend know that you are there to support them, listen to them when they are ready and just be there for them.

If the survivor is a family member (son, daughter, mom, dad, sister, brother, etc):

  • Remember, the trauma your loved one experienced involved a loss of control and power in their life. Let your family member decide what they want to do and support the decision they make.
  • It’s okay for their decision to be different than what you would like to have done or what you would do.
  • Let your loved one know that you are there for them, to support them, listen to them and love them.