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How to Help a Friend or Family Member

If friends or family members have been assaulted, it is important to respond in a supportive manner. Research indicates that a supportive response by the first person with whom a victim confides can facilitate a victim’s ability to heal. A blaming or otherwise hurtful response can hinder a person’s ability to seek help and heal from the trauma of assault.

Helpful Actions:

  • Believe your friends or family members. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone.
  • Listen without judgment or blame; be supportive.
  • Reassure your friends or family members who have been sexually assaulted that the assault is not their fault.
  • Reassure your friends or family members that drinking underage or on campus is a lesser infraction than sexual assault and will not be the focus of the police or university personnel.
  • Notify your friends or family members of the importance of completing a wellness exam, and their option to contact the police or Faces Family Justice Center for a sexual assault forensic exam. Evidence can be gathered shortly after a crime has occurred and the victim will have time to decide if they would like to go forward with an investigation. Even if your friends or family members do not wish to report to police or campus officials, encourage them to seek medical attention immediately. In addition to getting treatment for any injuries, responding quickly can provide time to make decisions about prophylaxes for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, or HIV.
  • Help your friends or family members identify campus and community resources, such as the Violence Prevention and Support Coordinator (VPS) at the Women’s Center who can offer crisis response, advocacy, community and campus resources, and academic support.
  • Find support for yourself; consider speaking with the VPSC or someone at the Counseling Center.
  • Allow the survivor to choose with whom they will share the details of the assault. Do not pry for details.
  • Understand the survivor might not want to be touched. Ask before crossing any boundaries.
  • Be patient. Understand that recovery can take months or years.

Unhelpful Actions:

  • Conveying judgment or making comments about how they could have “prevented the attack.”
  • Pressing for details. Allow them to share what they are willing to share.
  • Sharing information with anyone without the victim’s/survivor’s permission. Respect confidentiality.
  • Calling the police or other resources without the victim’s permission.
  • Taking decision-making away from the survivor. The victim has already had someone take away their power, respect the informed decisions made by your friend or family member.