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FACT: Although there is a high correlation between alcohol, or other substance abuse, and domestic violence, it is not the cause.
1. Believe Him or Her. The greatest fear of rape survivors is that they will not be believed. Acquaintance rape survivors also fear that their experience will minimize as "not important." Accept what you are hearing-even if the perpetrator is well liked and even if the victim may seem calm and collected, or other behavior that may seem inappropriate for someone who has just been raped. Every person reacts to trauma in an individual way...all reactions are possible and normal. An attempted rape can be as traumatic as a completed rape. Always treat a survivor of attempted rape with the same care as someone surviving a completed rape. 

2. Listen. Find a place to be alone and let them talk. The story may not begin in a rush of words, so be patient. On the other hand, the story might be told in a series of fragmented thoughts in no particular order. Again be patient, refrain from asking intrusive questions, and provide empathetic listening. Do not force them to talk. 

3. Provide Comfort. Try to establish a warm, secure atmosphere. If the victim is agitated, help him/her work through the feelings in a soothing-not disapproving-way. He/she might want to be held and comforted while he/she cries or may not want to be touched at all. 

4. Reinforce that the rape was not his/her fault. Avoid victim-blaming actions or questions, such as "Why didn't you scream?", "Why were you there?", or "Did you fight?" Victims usually need an opportunity to talk out their feeling of self-blame. Remain objective, helping the victim understand that the rapist (not you friend) caused the rape! 

5. Suggest Calling a Rape Crisis Center. A crisis center will provide a trained advocate to guide the survivor (and all secondary victims) through the next critical hours. An advocate can provide factual information that can help the victim determine whether he or she wants to report the crime. The decision to report can be difficult and the Advocate will respect the survivor's choice by coordinating appropriate follow-up services. An Advocate will also be knowledgeable about Rape Trauma Syndrome and informed about any resources that may be helpful. 

ALL rape crisis centers are completely confidential. Working Against Violence, Inc. (WAVI) has a specialized unit of sexual assault responders. They can be reached at 341-4808 or toll-free at 1-888-716-9284 (WAVI).Your friend can find a rape crisis center in other communities by looking under "Rape" in the yellow pages of the telephone directory. This is a crucial step to take, even if the survivor has not yet attached the word 'rape' to the experience. 

6. Encourage the Preservation of Evidence. The sooner the crime is reported, the better the likelihood of charges being filed and the offender being convicted. (Because so many people do not recognize their experience as rape until days, weeks, months, and even years later, vital evidence is often lost.) During the rape exam at the hospital, specimens will be taken to find traces of blood, hair saliva, and semen from the rapist. The examination should be done before the victim washes his or her hands, face, and body or brushes his or her teeth. 

7. Treat All Medical Needs. Bruises, cuts, or other injuries may need immediate care. Even if a person appears unhurt, medical attention is still recommended. Treatment is available to prevent pregnancy and as a precautionary measure in case the rapist may have had a sexually transmitted disease. 

8. Help Your Friend Regain Control & Normalcy. A survivor will need to organize their thoughts and begin making decisions about how to proceed. Rape survivors need to regain the feeling of being in control. Allow him/her to do that. Attempt to separate how you feel about what has happened from what is best for their recovery. If a decision is made not to prosecute and you disagree, support their decision. Encourage your friend to gradually resume as much of their 'normal' schedule as soon as possible. Remind them that they have the same strengths and abilities as they did before the crime. 

9. Provide Protection. Depending on the situation, the survivor may feel unsafe or be in immediate danger. Help your friend develop a plan which addresses his or her safety concerns. Remember to include a measure that will allow your friend to feel safe at home and at work. 

10. Appropriate Touching. Some survivors may want to be held or hugged and others will prefer that you not touch them at all. Respect those boundaries. Holding a hand and gentle touching can help portray empathy and compassion in appropriate situations. If you are a victim's partner, seek approval to use appropriate touch and language to reestablish feelings of self- worth and demonstrate an unbroken connection. They should decide when sexual activity and intercourse should begin. Do not pressure him/her into sexual activity prematurely to 'prove' everything is 'normal'. Rape Crisis Centers will have more information specifically written for significant others. 

11. Community Resources. Immediately after a rape, survivors may not be able to seek out resources. Psychological and legal assistance can be very helpful. Help do that legwork (follow-through with an advocate from a rape crisis center can be a big help). Offer to baby-sit, or provide transportation so a survivor can meet with lawyers, law enforcement personnel, and counselors. 

12. Be Available. Offer companionship in the weeks and months following a rape. Reassure your friend that he/she can turn to you whenever they need to talk and then give them the time and attention needed, when they do call.

13. Learn more about Rape Trauma Syndrome. Your friend's restructuring period will last a long time, during which their moods and reactions may change radically from one day to the next. Understanding Rape Trauma Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress will be helpful. 

14. Get Support for Yourself. You may need to talk with someone else regarding your own feelings and responses to the assault and its aftermath. A rape crisis center could be of some assistance or could provide a referral in your community. 
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