How to Support a Survivor

Title IX

If a friend who has been sexually assaulted confides in you, the most important thing you can do is listen. In doing so, keep the following in mind:

  1. Believe them. More than anything else, they need you to legitimize the pain of their experience. Now is not the time to question individual facts regarding their story. Take their word for it. Don’t assign blame and don’t allow your friend to blame themselves.

  2. Respond to any physical and personal needs. If the assault has just occurred, the person might have medical or personal needs that should be met. Ask your friend if they would like to go to the hospital. Encourage them to go, but let it be their decision. The hospital is also a place where physical evidence can be collected against the rapist. It is important that your friend does not “clean up” beforehand, shower or change clothes.

  3. Listen to and comfort your friend. Don’t take control of the situation. Again, the best thing that you can do for your friend is to listen. Assume that what has happened is confidential; don’t tell others. Offer your friend choices, and be patient with their response.

  4. Let your friend know how much support you can give. If you are not comfortable being a support person, say that to your friend in a thoughtful way and help them find other support. Recommend they talk to SART and/or a counselor and that you will go with them. If they refuse, that is their choice.

  5. Get help for yourself. You may need to talk to someone about your feelings and to sort out your own reactions. You too can call any of the resources listed.

  6. Know your resources and use them. You do not have to handle the situation alone. SART/CADA can be contacted 24 hours a day to answer questions and to offer you support. You do not have to give the survivor’s name and the information you provide SART/CADA is confidential.