Rape: How You Can Support Victim Recovery

Sexual assault can happen to anyone.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) says that each year there are about 293,000 sexual assaults— about every 2 seconds (Sexual Assault Statistics). About 80% of the time the victim knows the perpetrator.

But 68% of the time, the victim doesn’t report the crime [1]. Why?

Victims stay silent for many reasons, among them:

  • They fear not being believed or taken seriously
  • They’re ashamed
  • They think they somehow were responsible for the assault
  • They don’t trust the system to support them or keep them safe from retaliation

Sexual assault victims need appropriate care and support to begin healing. Unfortunately, many victims do not get the care or services they need.

Every journey begins with the first step.

Change begins with creating an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are cared for and supported. To encourage victims to break the silence — to come forward knowing that the circumstances of the crime don’t matter, that they will be believed, cared for and supported — communities are developing and operating a Sexual Assault Response Team, referred to as a SART.

A SART is a team of specially trained police, nurses, prosecutors, advocates and prosecutors, who come together to provide victim-centered justice. If your community has a SART program, you will find qualified, caring people there who will sensitively and effectively help the victim.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) says that a SART is highly effective in supporting and obtaining justice for victims. NIJ studies of sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) and SART programs show that they:

  • Enhance the quality of health care for women who have been sexually assaulted
  • Improve the quality of forensic evidence
  • Increase law enforcement’s ability to collect information, file charges and refer to prosecution
  • Increase prosecution rates over time

How a SART addresses the impact of sexual assault and seeks justice for victims is powerfully portrayed in the video, Break the Silence: Sexual Assault and the SART Response. Click the logo to view the video.

Break the Silence Title Screen

If you would like to download or share the video, write me at linda.[email protected]

Help the victim get appropriate services

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted call 911 to report the crime and request medical assistance, or go to the nearest hospital. Do so as soon as possible.

Alternatively, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE [4673]) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) provides free confidential information on rape recovery and the value of a SART. Learn more at RAINN Info.

Other ways you can help:

  • Be there to listen. Whether it is right after the rape or weeks later
  • Encourage the victim to get medical attention (address physical injuries, deal with STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and prevent pregnancy)
  • Encourage the victim to get emotional support. Trained advocates are part of a SART. Counseling or group sessions can help victims address their feelings and begin recovery
  • Understand that victims may not want to be alone or they may withdraw
  • Understand that post-rape feelings vary widely: fear, anger, confusion, numbness, embarrassment, shame, anxiety, or depression
  • Encourage your community to offer a qualified SANE-SART support team

SANE-SART teams can be started locally, with learning and skill building available online at

 [1] Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2008-2012

Leave a Comment