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SUPPORT A SURVIVOR

How do I help a friend who may have been sexually assaulted or experienced another form of sexual misconduct?

If your friend has been harmed, make sure they are safe. Believe your friend and listen to them. Establish yourself as a safe person who won’t pass judgment and will let your friend lead their own recovery process. Be patient. Healing takes time, so continue to offer your support. Don’t try to rationalize what happened or make excuses for the offender. Provide options to the victim/survivor and let them choose which option is best. Do not avoid your friend or the subject; doing so may reinforce any shame or fear they are feeling.

 

Is there anything tangible I can do?

Know available support resources and refer your friend to them. If they aren’t interested, don’t force them. You may also contact these resources for guidance on how to help your friend. Educate yourself about sexual violence and the trauma associated with it. Do not forget to get help for yourself. Having a friend who has been victimized can be a scary and confusing experience. Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services (MCAPS) and others can help you process what has happened.

 

Don't hesitate to contact the EmPOWER Center if you have questions regarding the situation. 

DO

  • Express empathy and share your concern for your friend.

  • Be supportive and listen to them. 

  • Communicate to your friend that they are not responsible for the violation.

  • Make sure your friend has a safe place to stay.

  • Allow your friend to regain control by empowering them to make their own decisions on how to respond.  Respect their decisions.

  • Make yourself available to accompany your friend to a helping resource (e.g., hospital, Student Health Services, Monsour Counseling Center).

  • Understand that there is no one way to react to sexual misconduct and that your friend may go through a range of emotions and responses to what happened to them.

  • Realize that you too have been affected and seek support if you need it.

DON'T

  • Force them to talk and/or take control from them or ask your friend how they could “let this happen”.

  • Assume you understand how your friend feels.

  • Assume the gender of the people involved.  Sexual misconduct can occur among all genders and sexual orientations.

  • Discuss the incident with others unless you have permission from your friend.

  • Attempt to seek revenge.

  • Make jokes.

  • Be angry with your friend.