When someone tells you that they were sexually assaulted, the best way to respond is simply to Start by Believing. Survivors are often afraid that others won’t believe them or that they will blame them for what happened. It is important to assure them that you believe them.
It is common for survivors to blame themselves for the assault. Let them know that it was not their fault no matter what. Also, don’t ask questions like “were you drinking” or “why didn’t you call me for a ride?” Even if you ask these questions with the best intentions, they can sound accusatory and may cause further self-blame for the survivor.
It’s important that you don’t force survivors to talk about what happened if they aren’t ready. Let them decide when they are ready to talk about the assault and what they want to share. And when they are ready to talk about it, simply listen and allow them to speak openly and freely.
People often worry about saying or doing something that will make the situation worse. When in doubt, ask the survivor how you can help. “What can I do to support you?” “Do you want me to stay with you tonight?” “Do you want me to go with you to the hospital or police station?” Let the survivor know that you are there for them, but allow them to make the choice to accept your help or not.
It is important to let survivors make their own decisions. This can be difficult for loved ones if the survivor chooses not to report the sexual assault or seek help. During the assault the survivor had power and control taken away from them by the perpetrator, and making their own decisions can help them regain control of their life.
Be patient with your loved one regarding physical contact. Ask if you can touch or hug them. Healing takes time and a reluctance towards physical comfort or intimacy is not necessarily a reflection of their feelings towards you, but associated with the trauma of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a serious crime, and the decision to report the assault, seek medical care, or contact an advocate can be difficult to make. Survivors have the right to take their time when making these decisions. You can offer to help equip them with information about their options and available resources, but let them make the decision on how to move forward and then be there to help.
When you hear people blame a survivor for their “role” in a sexual assault or suggest that the survivor isn’t being truthful, speak up! It is not the choice of the victim that matters – it is the decision of someone else to commit a sexual assault. Research shows that only roughly 2-8% of sexual assault reports to law enforcement are false. Challenge these uninformed responses to sexual assault when you hear them and encourage others to Start by Believing.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) at Denver Health help survivors of sexual assault gain back control by offering medical examination and treatment, counseling, and reporting options following an assault.
Adult Emergency Center:
Denver Emergency Center for Children:
The Blue Bench provides sexual assault survivors with low-to-no cost individual and group therapy, case management to help navigate the legal process, a 24-7 support hotline, hospital accompaniment, and workshops for loved ones of survivors.
Linea Directa 24 Horas - Español:
The Center for Trauma & Resilience provides survivors of sexual assault and others impacted by trauma with no-cost crisis intervention, case management, financial assistance, client relocation, civil legal informatino, and integrated physical and mental health programs.
24-Hour Hotline - English:
Linea Directa 24 Horas - Español:
The Denver Children’s Advocacy Center offers children and families access to services along a continuum of care that includes prevention, early intervention, crisis response, forensic interviews, mental health treatment, and family support services.
Reaching HOPE provides compassionate mental health services that help trauma survivors end the intergenerational cycle of violence through a wide range of trauma-informed services such as wellness and prevention, trauma recovery, evaluations, and training and supervision.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger or seriously injured, call 911 or ask someone to call for you. The 911 call operator will stay on the line with you until a police officer arrives to help you.
The Victim Assistance Unit of the Denver Police Department provides immediate intervention, support, information, referrals and other assistance to victims and family members experiencing the effects of trauma following a sexual assault or other criminal and non-criminal victimization.
The Sex Crimes Unit of the Denver Police Department investigates sexual assaults and sexually-motivated crimes. Detectives from the Unit can also help individuals better understand the investigative process, without officially reporting an incident.
The Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center is a Colorado nonprofit organization that provides free legal assistance to victims of violent crime to help enforce their rights under the Victims’ Rights Act.
The Legal Information Network of Colorado is a collaborative network that provides confidential, no-cost, comprehensive legal information services for crime victims in the Denver metro area.
The best way to receive immediate information about this provider's services is through the website.
Project Safeguard is a nonprofit organization that provides support to victims of domestic violence and their families through safety planning, legal advocacy, and direct court support.