When someone has been assaulted or is a victim of crime, chances are that the person will turn to a friend for help. You are an important person to the survivor; therefore, the survivor shared this experience with you. Knowing how to respond will be very helpful in your friend’s recovery. As you help, allow your friend to maintain control over what happens next. Offer information, and then let your friend make his/her own decisions including who to talk to, what services to access, and what actions to take or not take. Even if you disagree with your friend, your support will help the person feel more in control. When your friend remains in control, he/she will be better able to regain a sense of strength, power and safety.
Protect Your Friend’s Privacy
It’s important that you get permission from your friend before you talk to anyone about what this person has shared with you. Your friend has confided in you because he/she trusts you. If you talk to another person about the incident, your friend may feel betrayed.
Take Care of Yourself
You may find the incident your friend or family member experienced is upsetting to you. When someone you care about is hurt, it is normal to feel angry, sad, and powerless. As a friend, it is also common to experience many of the same reactions a survivor does. Processing your feelings with the person who was sexually assaulted can be overwhelming to that person but talking to someone else may violate your friend’s privacy. You might consider getting professional support with how you are feeling. Do not confront an alleged offender. This can be dangerous.
Good Things to Say:
- Nothing you did (or didn’t do) makes you deserve this.
- I’m glad you told me.
- How can I/we help you feel safer?
- I love you.
- I’m proud of you.
- This happens to other people. Would it help to talk with some of them?
- I’m sorry this happened.
- I believe you.
- I’ll support your decisions.
- How are you feeling?
- What can I do to help?
Things to Not Say:
- This is all my fault.
- This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t ________________.
- I told you not to: go to that party, date that person, hang out with those people.
- Just forget it ever happened.
- Get over it.
- This is private. Don’t tell anyone what happened.
- Try not to think about it.
- I want to kill the person who hurt you.
- Why did you ____?
- Why didn’t you tell me sooner?
- Why didn’t you fight them off