People close to survivors of sexual misconduct and gender-based violence often feel that they need to be strong and take care of their friend or loved one. It is normal to want to help, and that support is crucial to the survivor, but it is important to remember to take care of yourself as well. If someone you care for has been hurt, especially if in a sudden or violent way, you may feel like a “secondary victim.” Secondary victims have to cope with their own feelings of violation, vulnerability, and helplessness, as well as with the issue of how to treat the primary victim in a helpful and healing way.
It’s important to remember that even if you have not been directly attacked or injured, you may experience some of the same emotional upset and mental confusion felt by the direct victim, since the victimization of someone close to you threatens your own well being and sense of security. Secondary victims are particularly likely to have difficulty with feelings of fear, anger, and guilt. You too may need some time and help in recovering from this trauma. Information and referrals are available for people close to survivors by contacting RISE.