How To Help a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted

You don’t have to have all of the answers to be supportive of a friend who has been sexually assaulted. If someone discloses a sexual assault to you, it usually means that you are someone they trust. Often, they just want to be heard. Here are some tips for helping a friend who has been sexually assaulted.

What can I do?

  1. Make sure they are safe. Make sure the person you are supporting is not in any immediate danger. Try to find out if there are any immediate physical needs that must be attended to. In case of an emergency, dial 911. If you are on campus, you can call University police at 828.251.6710.
  2. Believe them. The single most important factor in a person's recovery from sexual assault is whether or not they are believed. People rarely lie about being sexually assaulted or abused. Take what someone has to say about sexual assault seriously.
  3. Empower the survivor to make their own choices. Help them explore their options and offer resources, but don’t make decisions for them. When someone is sexually assaulted, they have been robbed of their choice. Help them to regain some of the power of choice by allowing them to make decisions for themselves and support the decisions they make.
  4. Show you want to listen. Let them lead the conversation. Listen without interrupting and be patient. Encourage your friend to take whatever time is necessary. Allow the survivor to share what they want when they are ready. Don’t pressure the person to share information.
  5. Tell them it is not their fault. There is nothing a person could do that would justify someone sexually assaulting them. Many survivors will blame themselves for what happened. It is important to counter that with strong messages that the harassment/assault was the fault and responsibility of the perpetrator and not the survivor. Don’t judge the person’s actions leading up to, during, or after the incident. Regardless of what the survivor was wearing, drinking, etc., the perpetrator is responsible.

What options are available?