How To Help a Survivor
Remember, it will take your friend some time to cope with the crime of assault or victimization. Help to empower your friend or family member. Sexual assault and abuse are both crimes that takes away an individual's power. It is important not to put pressure on your friend or family member to do things that she or he is not ready to do yet. Encourage them to report the crime to law enforcement (call 911 or 333-7816 on campus). If your friend is willing to seek medical attention or report the assault/abuse, offer to accompany him or her.
If A Friend Is A Victim Of Sexual Violence
If the friend has come to you, it's because she/he trusts you and needs your support. If your friend does not come to you, but you sense that she/he may have experienced violence, approach your friend gently to express your concern. Say something like, "I'm concerned because…" Don't ignore the problem; it will not go away, and talking can be an important step in improving the situation. If she/he is not ready to talk, be patient and ask again a few days later.
Listen respectfully and believe what she/he tells you. Realize your friend is taking a risk by sharing her/his experience with you. Avoid judging, blaming and interrogating. Let your friend know that you care and want to help. Be sure you protect your friend's privacy and confidentiality and honor her/his trust. Do not share what you've heard with anyone without permission.
Assure your friend.
Make sure she/he knows the violence is not her/his fault, that she/he is not alone, and that help is available. Remind them of these things frequently.
Be your friend's advocate.
Encourage your friend to decide what to do and be there for he/she to support his/her decisions.
Assist your friend.
Help your friend follow through with the decisions she/he makes. This may mean accompanying your friend to the hospital or to the police, or giving your friend a place to stay for a few nights.
If you want to talk with someone to get guidance about a particular situation, you can contact any of the agencies in the Resource section.
Common Responses to Recent Sexual Assault
- Your friend may feel ashamed, guilty, fearful or numb. Their sense of self worth may be diminished after an assault.
- Your friend may find it difficult to trust and to be intimate with others.
- Your friend may experience flashbacks of the incident.
- Your friend may experience fear of being alone.
- Your friend may experience nightmares or other sleep disturbances.
- Your friend may not be able to concentrate and focus. This can affect academic or job performance.
If A Friend It's Being Abused
If you have a friend you think may be in an abusive relationship, talk with her or him about it. Whatever you do, don't ignore the problem; it will not go away. Don't let your friend become isolated -- that just feeds into the power and control of the abuser. You can make a difference by talking with your friend about the situation. You don't have to be an expert to talk about abuse, you just need to be a friend.
Approach your friend and say, "I'm worried about you because…" or "Nobody deserves to be treated like this."
Listen and believe what your friend tells you. Don't judge or blame. Avoid "why" questions. Say, "This isn't your fault."
Focus on safety. Say, "This is not going to get any better and it could get much worse. I am afraid for your safety." Ask, "What can you do to keep yourself safe?"
Show concern. Ask, "How is the behavior affecting you?"
Offer practical support. If you are willing and able, ask, "What can I do to help?"
Remember that help is available. You or your friend may want to access some of the resources listed in the resources section of this web site. Say, "There are people who can help. Let's think of one you would feel safe talking to. I'll go with you if you'd like me to."