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Sexual Assault » Rape Crisis Scotland


Rape Crisis ScotlandIf you or someone else you know has been affected by any form of sexual violence, no matter when it happened, please call the free and confidential Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline on 08088 01 03 02 or South West Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre on 01387 253113/01776 889331. Trained female support workers support are there to listen, offer immediate support and information, and can let you know about support in your area.

Local Sources of Help and Advice

The Rape Crisis scotland Helpline and South West Rape Crisis ond Sexual Abuse Centre (SWRCSAC) offer support (and information for anyone aged 12 or over who has been affected by sexual violence, no matter when or how it happened. It is free and confidential. Both organizations can put you in touch with other services. The RCS helpline offers a minicom service for deaf or hard of hearing people and can arrange for language interpreters if your first language is not English.

Family and Friends of Survivors

It is important for a survivor of rape or sexual abuse to be listened to, and believed, whether they have just been attacked, or are talking about events that happened some time ago, eg in their childhood. This leaflet contains helpful information on how to respond if you have a family member, partner or friend who has just started speaking about their own experience of rape or child sexual abuse. You can actively support them by giving them space and time.

Some Reactions to Sexual Violence

Reactions and ways of coping with the effects of sexual violence are different for everyone. The ones listed below are by no means conclusive and survivors may experience some, none, or all of these feelings during a healing process.

The survivor may feel guilty or that they are somehow to blame for what has happened. They may feel worthless, lack confidence and trust. This is a natural response following such a traumatic experience. If the attack has been recent, it is possible that your friend or relative is in shock, some people respond to this by 'numbing out' and remain very calm, while others may cry and express disbelief at what has happened. It is natural to experience mood swings, to feel ashamed, dirty, angry, scared.

It is also possible that your friend or relative will experience these emotions some time ofter the event. Many survivors have nightmares about the attack. A similar involuntary reliving or reviewing of an attack can happen while awake and is called a flashback. Flashbacks can very distressing as they can be triggered by a variety of factors including smells, touch, locations or details that remind the survivor of the attack. Reliving memories of the abuse is very traumatic and many people may feel that they are going mad. This is not the case. It is part of the healing process. If the person you are supporting has flashbacks it is possible to help 'ground' them. Reassure them yhat they are safe, that it's a memory and that it's in the past. Slowing their breathing, stamping their feet, noticing their current surroundings eg colour the room is painted, snapping a rubber band on their wrist, can all help to focus on the present. It can be helpful to talk about nightmares and flashbacks, try to work out what has triggered them, if a change in daily routine or some circumstance may help to control them. Practising these techniques is also helpful if your friend or relative experiences panic attacks. These attacks are frightening and the loss of control can be very distressing. They too are a natural response to triggers which may make the survivor feel threatened.

Reporting to the Police

If you are a parent or guardian of a young child who has disclosed abuse you have the responsibility to protect their safety. You may struggle to believe the disclosure or seek to deny it eg if you know the abuser. Children do not lie about sexual abuse. They have no way of knowing about sexual acts or inappropriate behaviour unless this has been impressed upon them. Many survivors, from teenagers through to the elderly, choose not to report sexual violence to the police. There are many valid reasons for doing so. You may wish justice to be done, however, it is important to respect her/his decision. They should be in control of what happens. Whether the attack happened recently or a long time ago it is entirely their decision to report it or not. The SWRCSAC and RCS Helpline are available to offer support and information for friends and relatives as well as survivors as are the other contacts listed (on the rear of this leaflet) above.

How can I help?

Below are some helpful ways to support a survivor of sexual violence. It is natural for you to have strong feelings when the person you are supporting begins to talk about what happened. You may feel angry, distressed, overwhelmed, confused, shocked and therefore may feel unsure about how best to respond. Your feelings are valid and very understandable and it can be helpful to access support to discuss how you feel and to help you with thin supportive role.

What about my feelings?

Seeing someone you care about dealing with a traumatic experience can be distressing. It is important that you get support for yourself. Without it, it can be hard for you to help. Try asking a trusted friend or family member or contact your local centre.