When Someone You Love Is Raped

Editor’s note: This article contains triggers for sexual assault.

Nothing can prepare you for the news that your loved one has been raped.

For the stomach-dropping horror of it. For the shockwaves that will resonate throughout the inner circle of people who know. For your loved one. For your family. For your friends. For your loved one’s future. For her body. For her soul.

Nothing can prepare you for the utter helplessness you will feel. The overwhelming urge you will feel to do something, but the bone-deep knowledge that nothing you do can change what has happened.

You’ll want to hold your loved one tight, to protect her from the horrors inside her head. You’ll want to throw yourself over her body. You’ll want so desperately to take the pain away from her. You’ll want to keep her safe from harm, to protect every single inch of her.

You’ll morph into someone who suddenly knows what it means to commit a “crime of passion,” because you’ll stay awake at night, constructing elaborate fantasies about how you will personally deliver vengeance upon this monster. It will scare you, how much hatred you can feel.

Nothing will prepare you for the reactions from others. For the rants that she “should have known better.” That it was her fault for drinking. Her fault for leaving with him, for trusting that her friend of many years would not rape her.  For being young, for being pretty. For being a woman. For the shattering shock of how the people you’ve known for many years will take the news that your loved one has had her trust and her body so very violated. That they will cast the blame on her, not the rapist.

Nothing can prepare you for the waves of deep shock that will overcome you. For the nightmares you will wake up to. The grief that will catch in your throat, the heavy sorrow that compresses your heart. For the sheer horror of it.

How it will hit you all of a sudden that there are people in this world who would treat another person as if they are less than an animal. That these people can wear the masks of people you know and love. That nowhere is safe. That no one is safe.

Like your loved one, you will confront your own feelings of powerlessness. Your eyes will well up bitter tears when faced with the truth of it: That you are rendered so helpless, so futile, against something that feels so much bigger than you.

Because deep down, you know that this will hurt your loved one, and you are powerless to change that.

But what you can do, is love her. You can love her with every fiber of your being. You can let her deal with things in the way she needs to. You can give her back some of that power that was so viciously taken away from her.

You can tell her that you are there for her, and that it is her choice what “being there for her” means.

You can let her grieve. You can let her rant and rave. You can let her shut down. You can give her the number for a rape crisis center. You can give her the space to never speak of it again. You can take her to the hospital. You can tell her you support her decision not to face down a justice system that is so stacked against her. You can hold her hand as she makes a statement to the police. You can get drunk with her, let her cry and wail. You can hold her.

You can let her continue to be who she always was and always will be: Someone you love.

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photo by Nico Nordstrom

View Comments (2)
  • Wow, thank you for sharing. I agree that it’s absolutely heartbreaking – even by association. Thanks for speaking up about this.

  • Thank you so much for writing this. You gave voice to my experience of trying to comfort a loved one after she was raped–the shock, the anger, the helplessness, the mourning for all the pain and rebuilding she’ll have to do, for everything she’ll go through, for so long. It’s so difficult, and you captured it so well. Thank you.

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