4 Things You MUST Understand If The Person You LOVE Was Raped

Photo: WeHeartIt
Sad Woman
Buzz, Self

Everything I learned from dating a rape survivor.

Being a rape survivor is one of the most horrifying experiences I can imagine. However, many people around the survivor act like the rape was a one time event — damaging, but something the person should eventually "get over".

Those people are WRONG.

I’ve dated girls that had been raped and sexually assaulted, and I have friends that survived it too. They are some of the BRAVEST people I know, and I’ve loved them dearly. But I had to learn a LOT over time to be able to interact with them without accidentally triggering flashbacks.

I’m sharing what I learned, because it may save your own relationship or friendship with someone who DESERVES to be loved:


1. Their rape is re-lived  OVER and OVER again.

When you're physically violated, it imprints memory in your body and in your mind. Nightmares and shaking are a frequent side effect from reliving the experience —​ both mentally and physically.

And it doesn’t always start right away. Sometimes it takes years for the trauma to surface, and when it does, it can be JUST as vivid as when it happened.

When this happens, there are really just three options: HOLD them, sit NEXT to them without touching, or LEAVE the room. Before doing any of these, ask THEM what THEY need.

Some want to be held and feel safe, some want a nearby human presence while calming down  but don’t want to be touched because their senses are overwhelmed. And some want complete isolation because there's just too much happening in their mind at once.

The most important thing, though, is to Just let THEM have control of the situation.


2. ANYTHING can be a trigger.

I wish this was an exaggeration, but it’s extremely true.

I knew someone that had a panic attack when I played a really popular song, and once when I called her a baby. I didn't know until it was too late, but those were somehow involved the night of her attack. In both instances, I had NO way to know that these were going to trigger her flashbacks — but I can’t listen to that song anymore without getting a little nauseous. Luckily it’s not as popular as it used to be.

As soon as you realize something is a trigger, it’s OFF LIMITS. Period.

No “trying to get them used to it” or “that’s really weird so I’m going to keep doing it to see what happens.”


They need support. Not torture.


3. Sex has to be prepared for in advance.

When the person you love and want to have a sexual relationship with is a survivor, the rules are extremely different from other sexual encounters. Sex needs to be discussed before anything happens. It doesn’t stop you from having spontaneous sex, but unless they are prepared for that situation, things can go horribly wrong.

One touch in the wrong place and a traumatic episode can occur.

It’s even harder if you’re the next person they wanted to sleep with after the rape. They may not know what their triggers are yet, or they may not be ready for sex as soon as you’d like. Waiting and really building that TRUST between the two of you will make the relationship SO much stronger.


4. You NEVER talk about their status as a "victim" without permission.

While this may be obvious, I want to make it clear: disclosing someone’s survivor status without permission is as much of a violation as the attack itself. When you do that, you are taking away any progress they’ve made and stripping them of any defenses.

Not everyone has the right to know the person you love was raped, and you NEVER have a right to tell someone without clearing it first.

They don’t want the only thing people see to be that they were violated. They want to still be a person.


Rape and sexual assault are extremely present in our society, meaning there are many survivors that need compassion and understanding. Odds are, unfortunately, you know a survivor.

The best thing you can do is show that you are an ally, either by calling out violating language or condemning someone when they make rape jokes. Be a safe space. Be someone that makes people comfortable enough to be vulnerable or strong.



Explore YourTango