How to Help a Friend
It is very difficult to talk about being sexually assaulted and many choose not to report the assault. However, many reach out to their friends to talk about the assault. You may experience a variety of emotions while hearing that a friend or loved one has been assaulted. It is generally not helpful for healing to occur if you vent your anger or disbelief, attempt to take charge of the situation, make a judgment about the assault or make decisions for your friend. What is often most helpful is offering support, patience and assisting them get professional support. Nothing you can do will take away the pain of the assault, but your support and concern can help with their recovery.
Guidelines for Helping
- Listen. If they want to discuss the assault with you, let them talk. Follow their lead and do not ask detailed questions about the assault or push for details.
- Validate their experience by expressing that you are sorry that this happened to them.
- Don’t blame the individual who experienced the assault/violence. No matter what they did or did not do, what they were wearing, where they were or how much they had to drink. No one “deserves” to be assaulted. No one is responsible for someone else’s behavior. Many often blame themselves and need to know it was not their fault.
- Encourage them to get medical attention and other needed services. Do not push or make decisions for them. It is important that they re-establish a sense of personal control and trust in their own judgment. Make them aware of resources and offer assistance in accessing needed services. Actively encourage them to seek services.
- Know that many often feel very ashamed and embarrassed about the assault. It takes a great deal of courage to speak out and talk with someone. Acknowledge their strength and the trust they place in you. Do not share the confidential information that they have told you with anyone else, unless the survivor has given you permission to do so.
- Ask them how you can help. There are simple actions that can be very helpful – offering to walk them to/from class, accompanying them to the dining center, etc. Ask them what they need.
- Be aware of your own feelings and concerns. Seek out support, such as talking to a counselor at the EIU Counseling Clinic or in the community such as, SACIS, for dealing with your own feelings about your friend’s experience.