How to Help a Friend Affected by Sexual Violence
Believe What You Hear
Remember that survivors of sexual violence often worry that sharing what has happened to them will lead others to abandon, reject, or even retaliate against them. Being able to show you care could be the reason that your friend feels safe continuing to utilize support.
For students who have been sexually assaulted on college campuses, feeling judged and having their privacy violated by trusted peers, friends, and roommates can feel as traumatizing as the assault itself. To best help your friend, discuss your discomfort or concerns later with a trusted private resource like SANet, not in the moment.
Remember Your Role
While we might feel an instinct to gather details of the incident first, the best way to support a friend after an assault is often to affirm what they tell you. Ask whether your friend feels safe now, what they feel would be most helpful now, and whether they are interested in expanding their support system.
Offer to Connect
If and when your friend feels like the time is right to reach out for more support (i.e., academic, housing accommodations, conduct process), you can offer to connect them to SANet or a trusted professional on campus. Remember that there are many trusted resources on and off campus that they and their support system can utilize.
This is a very important part of helping a friend through the healing process. Throughout your conversations with anyone who talks to you about sexual violence, ask yourself whether this is a point to bring in a professional support system in order to take care of yourself. Remember to respect your friend’s privacy by avoiding sharing any details or personal information with others.