Counseling Services

How to Help a Friend

If a friend or someone you know was sexually assaulted, she or he may experience a wide range of emotional reactions. For some, the emotional impact of sexual assault can be immediate and short-term. For others, the effects can be long-lasting. Your friend may find it helpful to talk about these feelings.

How You Can Support Your Friend

Listen. Your friend has chosen to speak with you which demonstrates their respect and trust in you. It is important to know that not all victims choose to speak about their experiences immediately after a rape, it might be years later. Be a good listener, act empathetically, but let your friend talk. Do not push for details.

Believe her or him. Survivors need to validate their experience. Be sure your friend knows that you support her or him.

Don't blame the survivor. Sexual assault is an act of domination and humiliation; it is used to victimize a person. No one deserves to be raped. Survivors often blame themselves, it may help if you reinforce that the assault was not their fault.

Allow the survivor to control the situation. Let your friend determine the pace of healing. Help your friend understand the options available, and encourage your friend to keep her or his options open. Provide a listening ear and support in the situation, however be cautious not to take control. Act as a facilitator for whatever decisions that they choose to take.

Encourage the survivor to get medical attention as soon as possible. Your friend can receive medical attention from a private doctor, clinic, or hospital emergency room. Seeking medical attention as soon as possible will allow the survivor to have options for their health and more control if they choose to proceed with legal action against the perpetrator. Do not shower or change clothes, but travel to the hospital as soon as possible so that the proper steps can be taken to ensure the health and safety of the survivor.

Don't be afraid to ask for outside help. Your friend may need medical attention or counseling. Offer to help your friend with access to a victim advocate, Counseling Services or other support either on campus or within the community. Regardless of how much time has passed since the assault, the survivor can receive counseling and referrals from Counseling Services.

How You Can Take Care of Yourself

Understand your own feelings yet, attempt to control your own emotions. You may also feel confused, hurt, angry or frightened. Such feelings are normal. Please keep in mind your reaction to the situation as well; do not attempt to approach the perpetrator on your own. Do not try to retaliate against the perpetrator either. It is important that you act in a way that is respectful of the survivor's wishes.

Don't be afraid to ask for outside help. Find someone other than the survivor to talk with about your feelings. Speaking with someone in Counseling Services or another individual will assist you in managing your own emotions. Counseling is available for you in Counseling Services, located in the Health and Recreation Complex.

Know and respect your own limits. There is only so much you can do to help your friend. You can provide support, compassion and companionship when your friend wants it, but try not to make commitments that you can't fulfill.

Remember that it was not your fault. You may feel guilty, thinking that somehow you could have prevented your friend's sexual assault. Don't forget that sexual assault is a violent crime and you are not responsible for someone else's actions.

Realize that coping with sexual assault is a long-term process. The impact of rape can take months or years to surface, it does not just disappear with time. Make sure to give yourself and your friend ample time to heal. Be patient with one another.