For Friends, Family & Partners
of Rape & Sexual Abuse Survivors
If you are a secondary survivor - a parent, friend or partner of a survivor of sexual assault - we are glad that you are here. At Pandora's Project, we understand that providing support to loved ones in the aftermath of sexual assault can be incredibly difficult, and we thank you for being there for the survivor in your life.
Knowing that someone you care about has been hurt may leave you feeling overwhelmed. Oftentimes both survivors and their supporters struggle with feeling helpless in the aftermath, and it can take some time to learn how to respond.
For many survivors, support is a crucial part of the healing process, and receiving compassionate and validating responses from friends and family can make a real difference.
You may have difficulty in knowing what to say or do to help your loved one. It’s okay to not have all the answers; non-judgmental listening and simply being there can be a wonderful support for the survivor. Let your loved one know that you care, that you don’t blame them, and that you believe in them. Unfortunately, there are no quick or easy fixes for healing from sexual violence, so it’s important to be patient when the process seems to be taking what some consider to be a long time.
In addition to finding ways to support the survivor, it’s very important to maintain your own well-being. You may find yourself feeling alarmed by the intensity of your own feelings. It can be helpful to recognize that it is natural for supporters to experience their own sense of shock, anger and devastation. Acknowledge the impact that this has on your own life, and seek outside support for yourself. Taking care of your needs can make it easier to provide support to others.
Helpful Resources for Supporters
Healing Together Forum
The Pandora’s Aquarium message board has a forum dedicated to secondary survivors (parents, friends, and partners of survivors) struggling with the effects of rape and abuse to get feedback from each other and from survivors.
Pandora’s Project has many informative essays and articles on various topics relating to sexual violence and recovery. The following articles are written specifically for secondary survivors:
Tips for Friends and Family of Survivors
Self-Care While Supporting a Survivor
Helping a Partner Heal Sexually
Secondary Survivors Surviving to Thriving's page for secondary survivors. Provides information on ways to help, things to say, what not to say, resources, and an area to share your secondary story.
A mother’s story Details a mother's reaction to her daughter’s rape and how they healed together.
A Guide for Friends, Family, and Partners of Survivors How to help the survivor and how to help yourself
RCIP's How to Help a Survivor and Partners of Survivors
For Carers and Supporters
ASCA’s (Adults Surviving Child Abuse) page for secondary survivors. Provides information on healing, and helpful tips for supporting survivors.
Hope for Healing: Partners of Survivors
A mailing list for the partners of survivors.
A comprehensive overview that may be helpful to you in understanding sexual assault and its affect on victims.
Herodes' Cave Spring Board & Live Chat Room
An online community for secondary supporters. Herodes’ Cave offers a message board and chat room, as well as links to additional resources.
Books and booklets
Allies in Healing
When You are The Partner of a Rape of Incest Survivor
Supporting a survivor of sexual assault: MARC/UBUNTU Survivor Support Booklet
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an
hour of grief, who can tolerate not knowing, not healing, not curing, that is a friend who cares
- Henri Nouwen