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! Victims cannot cause a sexual assault– it is the decision of a perpetrator alone to commit a sexual assault. Challenge these uninformed responses to sexual assault when you hear them and encourage others to Start by Believing and help create an environment that will lead victims to feel safe to report.
Survivors have the option to seek medical care following an assault. Depending on the type of sexual assault, a medical forensic exam may occur. This could include a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) exam, which can collect DNA evidence. This exam was previously called a rape kit. SANE exams are free for survivors and DO NOT require a survivor to make an official police report. Survivors also have the option of reporting anonymously, if they wish.
SANE exams can be stressful and scary, so survivors often opt to have an advocate meet them at the hospital to provide support, answer questions and help them connect to resources they need following the exam. Hospitals have Social Workers who can provide survivors support and request to have an advocate from a partner agency respond to provide survivors with information of next steps and resources depending on whether the survivor wants to report the incident or not. See “Emotional Support” for additional resources, which are available 24/7.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) at Denver Health help survivors of sexual assault regain control by explaining reporting options and offering medical examination, treatment and counseling following an assault.
Adult Emergency Center:
Denver Emergency Center for Children:
Survivors may decide that they want to seek therapy or counseling to help them deal with the emotional trauma of sexual assault. Therapy is available to survivors no matter when they experienced their sexual assault, whether it was moments or decades ago. If the crime has been reported, the agencies below can help connect survivors with advocates assigned to cases. These advocates can assist with navigating the legal processes and access further resources.
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 information, 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 including individual and family therapy, psychological evaluations, animal assisted therapy, as well as 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.
Survivors can often feel overwhelmed at the thought of what comes after reporting a sexual assault and may need help understanding their rights or how to access legal services.
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.
Many survivors have legal questions or needs such as filling for divorce, custody or for protection orders. The below agencies are legal resources that can help address such needs.
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.
(720) 865-9159 - Denver Courthouse Advocate
(720) 337-4468 - Rose Andom Center Advocate