Information For Friends and Family

Listen and believe.

Find HelpOne of the most important things any person can do for victims of rape or sexual violence is to believe them. Many victims have internalized societal messages that blame victims for being raped. You can help your loved one by believing what they tell you, and by reassuring them that they are not to blame for someone else’s choice to hurt them. Non-judgmental listening is also incredibly important—try not to ask probing questions but rather allow your loved one to tell the story in their own space and time.

After a rape or sexual assault, an advocate can help you and your loved one.

When someone you care about has been raped or sexually assaulted, it is not only a painful experience for the victim but it can also be painful for you and others who care about the victim. There is free and confidential help available right now to provide you with the support and information you need to help your loved one. And, since some options are time-sensitive it is not too early to make this call.

Contact an advocate in your part of Minnesota by clicking here. If your loved one lives in a different part of the state, this section will help you search for an advocacy program located either in or nearby your loved one’s community.

If your loved one has not talked with an advocate yet, providing them with the contact information and sharing what you know about the program is another way to provide important and timely help.

For more information about what an advocate does, watch this short video.

Your loved one has rights and options.

Communities throughout Minnesota have trained professionals ready to help you and your loved one with the decisions that are next.  Advocates can be your guide to these other responders in your area, and will not contact other responders without your knowledge or permission.

If your loved one is thinking about seeking medical attention, an advocate can help answer questions about where to go for a rape exam and what to expect.  In many areas of the state, an advocate can meet you and/or your loved one at the hospital.  Many victims find this assistance incredibly helpful as advocates have special training in the medical and legal responses to sexual assault.

Forensic evidence exams may take place within 120 hours (5 days) of an assault, but evidence is typically the most viable when collected as soon as possible.  Certain medications are most effective within the five-day window as well, but please call an advocate to discuss whether or not your loved one is still within the exam timeframe.  Additionally, keep in mind that it’s never too late to receive medical attention or advice.

In most cases, victims can first have the medical exam and then take some time to think about whether they want to report the crime to the police.  An advocate can help the victim understand how this option works.  There are many reasons why victims may or may not report to police, but remember that it is the victim who should be making this decision.  Respect the choices your loved one makes.

Victims under the age of 18 have some privacy rights for medical treatment and advocacy services.  It is important to know that based on certain circumstances, there could be some exceptions to those privacy rights.  You are welcome to call a crisis line anonymously to learn more about how an advocate can support you and your loved one, and what options are available to you both.

For more information about the medical exam, watch this short video.

Your loved one is not responsible for payment of the exam.

The Minnesota county where the rape or sexual assault occurred is responsible for the cost of collecting evidence during the exam, whether the victim chooses to report the rape to the police or not.  Additional medical treatment such as medications or treatment of injuries may need to be paid by the patient or the patient’s insurance, per the patient’s agreement.  Costs to the patient may vary depending on the county and hospital.  An advocate can help answer more questions about exam payment and the other aspects of the emergency room visit.  If your loved one connects with an advocate, the advocate can provide a better understanding of all available options.

Healing takes time.

Please remember that there is no set amount of time needed to heal from a sexual assault.  Sexual violence can impact survivors for weeks, months, or years.  Try to be patient and validating for your loved one, despite how long it has been since the incident.  Also keep in mind that anniversary dates of the assault can be very retraumatizing for survivors, as well as potential “triggers” that might spark a memory of the assault.

Friends and family of sexual assault survivors can be most helpful in the supportive role.  Sexual assault is a very disempowering crime that takes control away from the victim.  It is important to give control back to survivors as they navigate their own healing process.  Try not to compound the disempowerment—encourage your loved one to make individualized choices and do what you can to support those choices.

There is no “right” way to feel or react after being sexually assaulted.

The impact of sexual violence takes many forms, and all reactions are acceptable.  Remind your loved one that how they are responding is normal, and that advocates are always available to talk through any feelings, emotions, or physical reactions your loved one may be experiencing.

Contact an advocate near you by clicking here.

The information on this website is a general statement of law and policy. If you have specific questions please contact your local advocacy program for assistance.

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