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How to help someone who is at risk or has been sexually assaulted

What to do if a friend tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted

It can be difficult for a person to tell someone he/she was sexually assaulted. Often, the victim’s character and judgment are the first things to be questioned, even by friends and family members. Do your best to be supportive and nonjudgmental.

Believe your friend.

People rarely lie about a sexual assault. Whatever the circumstances, no one asks to be assaulted. Tell your friend it is not his/her fault.

Be supportive and nonjudgmental.

Don’t question your friend, blame him/her, ask why the assault happened, or assume that ignoring it will make it go away. Sexual assault is a crime and the only person responsible is the rapist.

Don’t pressure your friend.

Don't pressure your friend into making decisions or doing things he/she may not be ready to do. Respect whatever choices your friend makes. We don’t want to take away their sense of control. Encourage your friend to call 911 or contact a local distress line such as the Assaulted Women’s Helpline (154 languages): 1-866-863-0511/ Mobile #7233.

Encourage your friend to get medical help.

Encourage your friend to seek medical attention immediately, even if he/she doesn’t want to report to law enforcement. Specialized support and services are available.

Explain available resources and allow your friend to choose what to do.

Your friend may or may not want to file a police report, tell his/her parents, go to Student Rights and Responsibilities, etc. Assure him/her that someone is always available to explain options, provide resources, and make referrals.

Respect confidentiality.

Let your friend decide who and how much he/she will tell about the assault.

Don’t expect your friend to get over it.

Rape can affect every major aspect of a person’s life. It is not something people just get over. They may learn to accommodate or adjust to a new normal, but the assault will always be a part of their lives.

Remember that recovery is a process, not an event.

Allow your friend as much time as he/she needs to heal.

Encourage your friend to consider counselling.

Talking with an impartial professional may help your friend and teach him/her some new coping skills and strategies to start healing.

Credit: Adapted from UCF Victim Services