Dean of Students
If Someone You Know Has Been Sexually Assaulted
- Let her/him make decisions. Offer to help make phone calls, but do not take over. Your friend has just been violated and needs to regain control of her/his life. Helping her/him make decisions is part of that process.
- Do not touch the survivor without first asking permission. Physical contact may or may not be appropriate. Ask, “Would you like a hug?” Do not assume that physical contact will be comforting or welcome. Try to ensure that everything you do is comforting.
- Don’t blame the survivor for anything. Avoid asking things like, “Were you drinking?” or “Why did you go home with that person?” Focus instead on making the person feel safe and loved.
- Try to deal with your own reactions and emotions later. It is natural for you to feel angry, helpless, confused, or hurt. Try instead to focus on attending to your friend’s feelings. Once the survivor’s immediate needs are met and s/he is safe, you should consider seeking help from a counselor to talk about the incident and your own self-care.
- Listen and validate everything that your friend is telling you. Do not pass judgment on what you are hearing.
- Do not try to minimize what has happened. While it may be true that “things will be okay” eventually, your friend has experienced a traumatic event and needs support, patience, and validation. Healing takes time.
- Encourage the survivor to seek help as soon as possible. Use this guide to help understand what resources are available. Help them access that support. Ask your friend what s/he needs from you in terms of help and companionship.