It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially when that person is a family member, friend, or loved one. If someone you know is victimized, their reactions can vary. They might be angry, sad, or afraid. They might respond in ways that seem unusual to you – for example, your friend might laugh at seemingly inappropriate times or appear to have no reaction at all. Processing complicated emotions following an assault and deciding what they wish to do moving forward can take time. Consider the following ways of showing support:
- Listen. Communicate without judgment. Just listening with compassion can be incredibly helpful.
- Believe. Rather than asking a lot of questions, just let them know that you believe them and will support them as best as you can.
- Give options. Sexual assault is a crime of power and control. In order to give a sense of control back to your friend/son/daughter, allow them to carefully choose what option is best. You can help them explore their options by suggesting available resources – medical, legal, on-campus, off-campus, friends, family, counselors, or any other support you can think of.
- Be present. If the survivor seeks medical attention offer to be there. Your presence can offer the support they need when talking to various resources or if they want to report.
- Encourage. Ensure they are practicing good self-care during this difficult time. Remind them that no one has the right to hurt them and that no matter what, it is not their fault that this occurred.
- Take care of yourself. Hearing about an assault can be difficult. It is important that while you are supporting a friend or loved one, you are also taking care of your own physical and mental health.
If you feel that your friend needs immediate assistance, call 911 or contact the SU Counseling Center 24-Hour Crisis Services.