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How to Help a Friend

What to do if someone you know has been sexually violated?

Helping a friend who has been violated is difficult.  You may experience sadness, anger, fear, frustration, helplessness, and confusion about what happened to your friend and it may bring up feelings from your own experiences.  You may want to do things out of care and concern for your friend that may or may not be helpful for them.  The most important things are to listen to and support them in their decision making and recovery.  Below are some suggestions of things to do and not to do when helping a friend.

DO:

  • Be supportive and listen to them.
  • Express empathy and share your concern for your friend.
  • 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.

And remember to take care of yourself while you are taking care of others.