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How to Help a Friend

Know that most university faculty and staff must report incidents of relationship violence and sexual assault to the Office of Equal Opportunity, Ethics and Access (link) for investigation.  The Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services Program and Student Counseling Services counselors are not required to report.  The university is required to follow up on all incidents of relationship violence and sexual assault and may investigate to support its’ efforts to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all students.  The survivor determines his/her level of participation in this process.

Though it is very difficult to talk about being sexually assaulted and many survivors do not report these crimes, many talk to their friends about their assault.    Hearing that a friend or loved one has been assaulted will likely create many emotions in you.   Venting your anger or disbelief, attempting to take charge of the situation or make decisions for your friend, will not aid their recovery.  Support, patience and validation are needed.  Nothing you can do will eliminate the pain of their assault, but your support and concern can facilitate recovery.  

Guidelines for Helping

  • Listen. If the survivor wants to talk allow them to discuss the assault with you. Follow their lead and do not ask detailed questions about the assault, or push for details.
  • Believe him/her.  More than anything, survivors need to validate their experience.
  • Don’t blame the survivor.  No matter what they did, or did not do, what they were wearing, where they were, or how much they had to drink, no one “deserves” to be assaulted.  The survivor is not responsible for someone else’s behavior.  Survivors often blame themselves and need to know it was not their fault.
  • Encourage survivors to get medical attention and other needed services.  Do not push or make decisions for them.  It is important that they re-establish a sense of personal control and trust in their own judgment.  Make them aware of resources and offer assistance in accessing needed services.  Actively encourage the survivor to seek services.
  • Know that many survivors feel very ashamed and embarrassed about their victimization.  It takes a great deal of courage to speak out and talk with someone.  Acknowledge their strength and the trust they place in you.
  • Ask them how you can help.  There are simple actions that can be very helpful – offering to walk them to/from class, accompanying them to the dining center, etc.  Ask them what they need.
  • Be aware of your own feelings and concerns. Seek out the support of others in dealing with your own feelings about your friend’s experience.

2017-01-27T09:36:20.228-06:00 2017