If a friend of yours has been sexually assaulted, there are several things you can do to help them recover. Most importantly, it is important to believe them without questioning. Very few people lie about being sexually assaulted. Remember that the offender took the survivor's power away by sexually assaulting them, and part of the healing process is about feeling empowered and in control of her/his own life. Below are some other tips:
- Although you may feel tempted to give your friend advice or to make decisions for them, it is important that you allow them to make their own choices so that they can regain some of the control they lost during the assault. You can provide information and discuss options with them so that they can make an informed decision.
- It is important to communicate to them that it is not their fault and that someone took their choices away.
- Remind the survivor that when someone is confused, fearful or being coerced or threatened they often cooperate with a perpetrator and this does not mean they consented.
- Help the survivor understand this experience will probably cause a disruption in his/her life, but that he/she will recover.
- You will likely be very angry and feel helpless, try to not express these feelings to the survivor. She/he is already dealing with enough difficulties without worrying about other people. Get support from others, such as a counselor or close friend.
- Your first response may be to give your friend a hug. Remember that she/he may not be ready for physical contact, even from a close friend.
- DO NOT make decisions for the survivor or give advice. DO NOT tell the survivor what you would have done differently. DO NOT ask her/him why she didn’t…(scream, fight, walk away, etc.). DO NOT ask what she/he did to provoke or invite unwanted attention (by what she/he was wearing or doing). Although you may not mean to ask questions in a judgmental way, often the way we word our questions can imply judgment.
How to Respond:
Instead of saying:
“Why didn’t you fight back?”
“Are you sure?”
“Why did you go to his room alone?”
“I am sorry this happened to you.”
“How are you feeling?”
“You did the best you could to survive.”