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Rape

If Someone You Love is Raped

Lee Van Donselaar, Ph.D. & Kim McKay, M.S.
Counseling Center
Ball State University
              (765) 285-1736       

In addition to its effect on the victim, rape profoundly affects family members and other loved ones. Partners of victims may have a particularly difficult time coming to terms with what has occurred. Yet, a partner is in a unique position to help a victim deal with the consequences of such a traumatic event, and thereby assist the loved one in making the transition from victim to survivor. Below are some helpful hints for becoming an ally to your loved one.

Know the Facts and Myths:
Rape…

  • Is an act of violence.
  • Is frightening, degrading, and occurs without consent.
  • Is NEITHER invited NOR enjoyed.
  • Is NOT the victim’s fault.

Help with Immediate Concerns:
The survivor needs…

  • To be believed.
  • To be allowed to make decisions about what s/he does/does not want to do.
  • Assistance in seeking medical attention.
  • Assistance in reporting the incident to the police—if s/he chooses to do so.

Be a Partner in Healing:
Do:

  • Communicate acceptance and compassion.
  • Listen: Be available to discuss the experience when the survivor is ready.
  • Provide physical comfort when needed.
  • Discuss rape myths when the survivor is ready. These may play on her/his mind just as they do on yours.
  • Play a supportive role. This helps her/him to regain a sense of control over her/his life.
  • Assist your loved one in getting counseling when needed.
  • Reassure her/him of your love and that, together, you will endure this crisis.
  • Channel your anger non-destructive ways such as talking openly about your feelings or educating others about the recovery process.
  • Take care of your own needs. Doing so helps your partner give permission to her/himself to do the same.

Don’t:

  • Blame the victim. Doing so prolongs recovery and creates distance in the relationship.
  • Ask “why” questions which only serve to convey judgment and blame.
  • Pressure her/him to recount details of the incident. S/he will do so if/when ready.
  • “Take charge” of a loved one’s healing process. Doing so will likely undermine her/his sense of control.
  • Trivialize the experience by joking about it.
  • Tell the survivor to “get over it” or “just try to forget about it”.
  • Be consumed by your anger. This has several unintended consequences, none of which are helpful:

                Anger…

    • Shifts the attention from the survivor’s needs to your needs.
    • Blocks communication.
    • Is easily misinterpreted as anger toward the survivor.

Summary:
Partners of loved ones who have been raped play a crucial role in the trauma recovery process. It is vital to provide a safe, accepting environment in which the survivor can release painful feelings. By letting the survivor know you trust in her/his ability to recover, you empower her/him to overcome the pain. As the healing process proceeds, it is recommended that you resume joint, pleasurable activities which brought you closer together in the past. Be patient: Complete resolution may take months or even years. Finally, for your own well-being, it is recommended that you find a trusted friend, confidante, or group to whom you can vent your own pent-up feelings.

References:
If She is Raped; A Guidebook for Husbands and Fathers, (1991). A.W. McEvoy & J.B. Brookings, Holmes Beach, FL: Learning Publications.

Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child, (1991). L. Davis. New York: HarperCollins.

Outgrowing the Pain Together: A Book for Partners and Spouses of Adults Abused as Children, (1991). E. Gill, New York: Dell Bantam Doubleday.

Counseling Center
Lucina Hall, room 320
Muncie, IN 47306

Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
Phone: 765-285-1736
Fax: 765-285-2081
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