How to Help a Friend

How to Help a Friend

The initial reactions of responders can play a key role in the victim’s perception
of the event and the likelihood that they will stay involved in the university system.
How to Help a Friend
| How to Help a Student | How to Help a Family Member

When someone has been sexually assaulted, chances are they will turn to a friend for help. You are an important person to the survivor; this is why the victim/survivor shared this experience with you. Providing a friend with an attentive ear and a supportive shoulder to lean on can make all the difference in the world for someone who has been sexually assaulted. When a person is sexually assaulted, keep in mind that many feel as though their power has been taken away from them. As you are helping, allow your friend to maintain control over what happens next.

Familiarize Yourself with the Resources

Provide a Thoughtful Ear

  • Let your friend know that you want to listen, and then do so.
  • Listen attentively and let your friend talk without interruption.
  • Show interest in what they say by sitting close and facing them.

Give Your Friend Control of the Situation

  • Remember that all control has been stripped from them during the assault.
  • Realize that stalls or silences may occur in the conversation. Let them happen.
  • Allow them to make decisions such as who to tell and what steps to take next.
  • Encourage your friend to seek medical attention or counseling, but it is important that you don’t try to force them to do anything.

Believe Your Friend Unconditionally

  • Remember that people rarely lie about being sexually assaulted.
  • Reassure your friend that they are not to be blamed. The only person who is responsible in an incident of interpersonal violence is the abuser.
  • Make it clear to your friend that you believe the assault happened and that you support them.

Provide Your Friend With the Necessary Information

  • Let your friend know that physical evidence must be collected within 72 hours of the assault.
  • Reassure them that they can decide at a later date whether or not they want to press charges.
  • Educate your friend about the confidential counseling and advocacy services available to them:
    local rape crisis agencies, campus counseling centers, and members of the clergy.

It is important to let your friend know that you believe in the possibility of healing. Although there is no recipe for recovery, you can affirm your friend’s strength and capacity to overcome. Your friend may be experiencing tremendous feelings of guilt and self-doubt. Try to alleviate these feelings by providing a safe, and secure environment for your friend. The road to recovery is long, but not impossible. Overall, it is important to make sure that the victim-survivor feels supported and in control, as much as possible, during their time of need.


*Please note that internet activity can be tracked and stored on the computer system being used. The Escape feature will quickly direct you to another website, but does not remove the history of visiting this site. If you have any concerns, it is recommended that a public computer (such as the library) be used to access this site.