If a friend tells you he/she was sexually assaulted and turns to you for support, the following are some tips to guide your response:
- First and Foremost: Support him/her. More than anything else, they need you to validate emotional reactions they are experiencing. Talk, listen, respect, and be emotionally available.
- Assure him/her it was not their fault. No matter what they said, wore, or where they were, they did not ask for or desire to be assaulted.
- Accept the individual’s choice of what to do. Ask what is needed, help identify options, and encourage independent decision-making, even if you may disagree.
- Be Patient. Try not to rush the healing process or “make it better.” Encourage the individual to seek professional help (see list of Where to Call.)
- If the assault occurred recently, attend to the individual’s immediate medical needs. Also, remind the individual to save clothing they were wearing, not to shower or bathe, or to remove any physical evidence.
- Seek support for yourself. It may be overwhelming to deal with angry feelings in addition to the victim’s. If you have strong/angry feelings or feelings of blame toward the victim, talk to someone else about this.
- For the romantic partner of the survivor: Pace the intensity of involvement, especially sexual contact, touching, holding. Ask permission before touching or holding the survivor.