Family & Friends Reaction
Disbelief: Initially they may respond with shock and disbelief, especially if the survivor still looks the same or there are no visible signs of attack. They may even doubt that the assault happened. This is called “Denial” and it happens after a traumatic experiences.
Fear: They may feel intense fear for your own survivor’s safety. They may try to protect her/him from future assault by being extremely cautious and over-protective. It may be hard to let the survivor out of their sight or let her/him return to every day activities. All this concern may be reassuring soon after the assault, but too much caution on their part can make it difficult for the survivor to feel capable and in control again.
Anger: Often loved ones experience anger and even rage after a sexual assault. Their first reaction may be to seek revenge -to find and kill the attacker. This is a normal feeling, but they will not be doing themselves or the survivor any good if they end up hurt or in jail and she/he has to worry about them. Sometimes they may feel anger towards the survivor, especially if she/he did something the friend or family member warned against, like hitchhiking or going to a party, that ended in sexual assault. If they find themselves blaming the survivor for the assault, they should make sure that they have someone other than the survivor who can listen to their angry feelings. It is important for the friend or family member to Remember that even if the survivor used poor judgment, it is the attacker who committed the crime and who is totally responsible for it.
Depression: It is not unusual to feel hopeless and depressed. A sexual assault brings up feelings of powerless in victims and those who love them, and they may feel that their life is out of control. Their security and trust have been drastically violated. If depression lasts for more than a few weeks or becomes serious, they should get support for themselves.
Guilt: Guilt is a common reaction when a loved one has been sexually assaulted. Those closest to the survivor may blame themselves. But whatever they did or did not do, they are not to blame if someone they love has been sexually assaulted. It is solely the fault of the attacker. Instead of wasting time blaming themselves for something they had absolutely no control over, it is better to concentrate on the positive things they can do now.