More often than not, the first person a victim-survivor reaches out to tell about their experience is a friend or peer, so it can be important for you to know how to help a friend who has experienced sexual misconduct (including sexual assault), relationship violence, or stalking.
If a friend tells you about their experience, it's important to thank them for trusting you with this information and to let them know that you believe them and are there to support them. It's also important to remember that experiencing interpersonal violence means that they have experienced a loss of control, so you should always focus on supporting the individual in whatever choices they decide to make. Individuals can experience and react to trauma very differently, so it's important to be sensitive to whatever emotions they might be feeling. A victim-survivor might feel frightened, upset, or angry, or they might feel numb and experience a desire to return to normal as soon as possible.
General tips on how to help a friend who has experienced sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking:
- Make sure the person is aware of all their options and the resources available to them.
- Offer to support or accompany the person in getting help or accessing resources — would it help them if you dialed the Advocates' number for them? Would they like you to walk with them to the CSDC?
- Let them know that you are there to support them. Check in on them to see how they are doing, but be respectful if they don't want to talk more about what has happened.
- Respect the person's privacy — don't tell other people what they have shared with you unless you've received their permission or you suspect they may be in danger.
- Take care of yourself — supporting someone who has experienced sexual violence can be a difficult and frightening task on its own. Friends and family of survivors may experience burnout or secondary trauma as a result of trying to help the victim-survivor.
- It's important for you to know that you can also access any of the campus resources if you need support or advice. The Advocates can give you advice on how to help a friend, and other resources can also offer you support services as well.
Tips on how to help a friend who is experiencing an unhealthy or abusive relationship:
- Never try to force the victim to leave if they are not ready.
- Focus on offering them healthy friendship and support, and let them know you are here to help them whenever they need it.
- Help them to make a safety plan of ways to keep themselves safe in the relationship if needed.
Tips on how to help a friend who is experiencing stalking:
- Encourage them to document any interactions, messages, or communications from the individual, including taking screenshots if possible.
- Help them brainstorm ways to keep themselves, their personal information, and their property safe.