What should you say to a rape survivor?

Trying to find the right words to say to a victim of sexual assualt can be extremely difficult, especially when in child sexual assault cases. The words and medical care that you provide at this delicate time can be the difference between getting on the road to recovery, and repression, and/or severe self blame.

As Part of your job as a forensic nurse, you must collect evidence that may be used in a criminal procedure, This generally involves the physical assessement and exam of the patient, but in order for you to collect as much evidence as possible, you need to ask the victim various questions about what happened. How you phrase those questions can be very damaging to the state of mind of the victim.


1. Listen Carefully.

2. watch how your phrase your questions. "Did he put his penis in your mouth?", not "Did you put your mouth on his penis?"

3. Be sure the victim as all the appropriate information, and / or needs fulfilled as best as possible. This should include transportation home, appropriate information on medications, STDs, support and rape crisis centers in the area.

4. Tell her that she did not deserve to be raped. No matter what she wore, what she said, or if it was someone she knew, That she should not blame herself for the actions of another.


1. Ask Why?

In general you should avoid asking "why" questions:

  • Why Didn't you scream?
  • Why didn't you run?
  • Why were you dressed like that?
  • Why did you go to his apartment?
These questions feel like they are assigning blame to the victim, or can make them doubt the did the correct thing, and that this may be their fault. These types of questions can generally be phrased in another way.

2. Ask what she was wearing without explaining why you need to know. Tell her that it doesn't matter what she wore, she still did not deserve to be raped. Explain that there may be forensic evidence on the clothes she wore that may be needed.

3. Tell him/her what you would have done in that situation

4. place blame on the victim

5. Disclose your own experience with sexual assualt if you have a personal history of abuse. While the feeling of trying to empathyze with the victim to let them know that they are not alone in this struggle may be tempting, this may further complicate the matter and make you less objective. Remember your job is to be a neutral collector of facts and evidence.

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