How to help a friend
If a friend tells you they have been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed, they have taken the hardest and first step towards recovery. They have chosen you because they trust you and need someone to confide in. Different people will respond to such incidents in different ways.
Actively listen to them. Try not to interrupt. Let your friend talk at their own pace. Silence is okay. Respect their privacy and do not disclose anything they have said to anyone else unless you have their permission.
Do not blame
Do not judge your friend or blame them for anything that happened. Sexual assault and harassment can happen to anyone and can be committed by anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Your friend may blame themselves for what has happened so be mindful what you say and how you make them feel. Do not say things like:
- ‘Why did you go with them?’
- ‘Are you sure that’s what happened?’
- ‘Were you drunk?’
Your friend has a right to decide what they want to do if they have been sexually assaulted or harassed. Do not tell them what they should or should not do. You can help best by suggesting where they can go to get information, advice and assistance.
Let your friend know of the on and off campus support that is available to them – see Support Options.
It is important that your friend seeks medical attention as soon as possible after a sexual assault to take care of any injuries they may have. A doctor can help your friend if they are worried about sexually transmitted infections or getting pregnant.
Support for you
As well as helping your friend, you need to look after yourself. You may have your own feelings to deal with including feeling upset, anger, disbelief, confusion or emotional stress from hearing what you have been told. You may be concerned that you cannot deal with the information that your friend is sharing and that you will not be able to support yourself. Support services are also available to you.
It is okay to step back and let experienced services continue the support. You only need to be a friend, not an expert. The decision is theirs to make.