If you want to help a person who’s been sexually harmed the best thing you can do is be someone they can trust and not make any judgements.
It can be really difficult for someone to talk about what’s happened to them. They may be distressed, self-blaming or angry, or they could appear calm. Everyone reacts differently and can go through a range of emotions.
They might want to report what’s happened to the Police, or they may not be ready to talk to anyone.
How to help someone
How you respond to someone who’s been sexually harmed can make a difference. Here is a list of things you can do which will help them get the right support:
- Give comfort and support, rather than advice.
- Listening can be more important than talking.
- When you do talk to them, try to use the words that they use themselves to describe the situation/how they feel. This might include things like ‘betrayed, hurt (physically and emotionally) taken advantage of, rape etc.).
- Let them know you believe them.
- Avoid victim-blaming. Don’t ask them about what they were wearing or how much they had to drink. Don't ask anything that could make them feel like what happened was their fault.
- Be patient. Don’t rush them. It can take some time to deal with an assault. Don’t expect them to ‘get over it’ quickly.
- Try to put aside your anger and shock about the situation while you support them. Validate their feelings and support them to reach out for help, showing you will be beside them all the way.
- Give them information about what help is available or offer to help them find out.
- Offer to make the first contact with a helping agency if that’s what they want.
- Offer to go with them if they want to be checked up medically , to report the assault to the Police, or other support they might want.
- Get support for yourself without giving any identifying information about the person you’re helping (protect their privacy)
Our trained specialists are available to discuss what’s happened and what support is available.
You can also get information on community services in your local area by searching for ‘sexual harm’ services in Healthpoint
Supporting someone making a Police complaint
If someone you know has decided to report sexual harm to the Police, you could help by offering to go with them. Here are some things you can do to help during the interview:
- Make sure they have regular breaks.
- Help them deal with any emotions.
- Find a safe place for them to be once they leave the police station.
- Organise contact with friends and family, but only if that’s what they want.
You can find more information about the police process on our Get help for yourself page, or you can contact us.
Support for a child or a young person?
Any sexual activity that involves a child or young person under 16 years old is child abuse and against the law. This includes touching in a sexual way or using a child for sexual gratification.
Children younger than 16 are not legally old enough to consent to sexual activity.
It is up to adults to protect children. If you are worried that a child is at risk of abuse, contact the Police or the Ministry for Children - Oranga Tamariki.
You can also contact one of our trained specialists to discuss your concerns and for advice.
If you are affected by abuse that you may have experienced as a child, help is available.
Are you concerned about someone else's behaviour?
At Safe to talk we can help you to help someone else. Challenging or harmful thoughts or behaviour can be difficult for the person and for those supporting them. There are lots of ways we can help. You are not alone.
Our trained specialists are available to discuss your concerns and what the next steps might be. What you say will be confidential.