Many people are afraid of saying or doing 'the wrong thing', or of 'damaging' someone further because they 'do not know enough' about sexual violence. It is important to remember that you do not have to be an expert; you are not dealing with a 'strange disease'. If you are prepared to listen, the woman concerned will be able to guide you in what she needs.
A woman whose story has not been believed by others may find it very difficult to trust anyone else and may resist talking about their experiences. Do not take this as you not being 'good enough' to trust, be patient and encourage her GENTLY, do not push her. If you feel the need to press her, ask yourself why YOU 'need to know' now. Her apparently frozen state will not last forever.
Let the survivor stay in control: Sexual abuse and rape can make a woman feel powerless and out of control. Survivors need to feel they can be in charge of their lives again. Therefore, it is important that you resist the very natural temptation to take over by arranging and doing things that you think are best. Instead let her/him talk and help and support them in their decisions.
Don't break the trust they have put in you: If someone you know has told you that they were abused it is because they trust you and they sense that you care for them. Telling you is their demonstration of a level of trust in you, your willingness and developing ability to support them will be your contribution
Listen - To what she has to say and let her take her time. It might not be easy for her to start talking about an event that she has kept silent about for a long time. It may be difficult because she may have been told not to tell by the abuser at the time.
Believe - People rarely lie about rape or sexual abuse. Why would they? It is important to believe what they are saying.
Respect - Both her feelings and decisions. If she feels like crying, let her, it can be part of her healing process.
Remember - It is not her fault - no-one asks to be abused or deserves it and she cannot be blamed for not preventing the abuse. The blame lies with abuser.
Recognise - The courage it takes for a survivor to speak must be recognised and praised. It takes a great deal of courage to face up to fears and also to talk about any sexual experience.
Don't judge: It is important to be accepting of the way they are reacting, even if this is not what you were expecting. It is best to get rid of any ideas you may have of how a person who has been raped should behave, and to accept their reactions as normal.
Give your partner space: this means allowing your partner time to sort out emotions and reactions to memories without pressure. Your partner may be facing several months of disturbance - sometimes withdrawing from you; at other times needing extra comfort. Your own needs may have to take second place - the sacrifice will be worth it. If the abuser is still alive and you know where they live, you may feel like confronting them (some husbands want to beat up the abuser). Before you do anything check with your partner that it is what they want you to do. To do otherwise is to put your partner in a powerless position and they've been there before. It may be a situation that is too frightening and confusing for them. If you are left with unvented anger, bash a pillow instead of the abuser, this is supportive action. Respecting your partner's wishes creates trust, a commodity that has been damaged by the abuse.