Helping a friend that has been sexually assaulted

When someone is sexually assaulted, having support and help from friends is essential. Here are steps you can take to help a friend.

Believe your friend. Tell them the assault is not their fault. Avoid asking questions that may sound judgmental or blaming (ie“What were you doing alone in their room?” or “Why did you have so much to drink?”).

Understand that people respond differently to being sexually assaulted. Some people may be crying, while others may appear to be in shock or seem very calm and rational. Expect a range of emotions from your friend, and remember that regardless of how your friend is reacting emotionally, they need support.

Listen to your friend. Tell them you want to be there for them. Let your friend tell as much or little about what happened as they would like, and avoid asking a lot of questions about the details of what happened.

Encourage your friend to seek support and medical care. Let them know about resources such as Safe Office and Student Health. You can offer to call for them or go with them to Student Health or a local hospital.

Empower your friend. Let them make their own decisions including how and when to seek help. However, if you are concerned about your friend’s safety at any time, get help immediately.

Continue your support during the recovery process. Recovering from sexual assault is different for everyone, yet most sexual assault survivors report that continued support from friends and family are important parts of the healing process. You can also encourage them to seek counseling at the University Counseling Center, the Office of the Chaplain or off-campus at Family Services. Working with a professional can help speed the recovery process.

Get support for yourself. Having a friend who has been sexually assaulted can be a very emotional experience. Be aware of your limits (remember, you are a friend, not a counselor), take care of yourself and seek support as needed. Even if your friend is not ready to get help, you can use the resources available for you.