How to Help a Friend

As a caring person:

  • Believe what you are told. Listen with compassion and understanding, and try not to interpret or judge.
  • You may need to reassure your friend by saying, "this was not your fault." Many survivors of assault blame themselves for the attack. Let your friend know that no one deserves to be assaulted.
  • Let your friend take control of the path to recovery. Sexual assault is an experience in loss of control. While you may have strong opinions of the right thing to do, it is best not to give advice. You can offer options and possible outcomes while letting your friend make the decisions.
  • Encourage your friend to seek medical attention. Physical injuries from sexual assault can range from scratches and bruises to severe trauma and are not always visible. Survivors of rape need to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy. Medical attention should be sought as soon as possible after the assault. If your friend decides to press charges, a properly conducted physical examination can provide important evidence.
  • Provide emotional support. Your friend needs your support and comfort. You want to encourage discussion of feelings while you communicate that you care. Ask what you can do that would be helpful.
  • Listen. Listen some more. As the immediate aftermath of the assault moves into the long-term (sometimes months or more) healing process, your friend may need to review what happened over and over or just be with you without talking.
  • Get support for yourself. You have your own reactions to the assault. Find a support person to talk about what you are experiencing and to help you deal with your feelings and identify resources for your friend. If you have any questions or concerns about appropriate responses to the student, feel free to contact SARU ( 410-516-7887), the Counseling Center (410-516-8278), or after hours through Security (410-516-7777) for consultation.