"Be there" for your friend. The support and understanding of friends and family members can be very helpful to a sexual assault victim. There are many specific things that you can do...
Let your friend know right away that you care and want to help.
Be a good listener. Let your friend decide what and when s/he feels comfortable telling you about the assault and its impact. Don't press for details or ask a lot of questions.
Believe your friend. It takes courage to talk about a sexual assault with other people. Many victims remain silent because they feel ashamed and/or they fear that they will be disbelieved or blamed if they tell other people about what happened to them.
Don't blame the victim. No one asks to be raped.
Encourage your friend to make her or his own decisions and choices. This is one way for a sexual assault victim to regain a sense of personal power and control. For example, let your friend decide if she or he wants to notify the police or contact a rape crisis center. But, do what you can to assist your friend in getting information about these and other options so she or he can make informed decisions.
Encourage your friend to "reach out" to people and places that know how to help sexual assault victims:
- Encourage your friend to get medical care, even if the assault happened a while ago and even if your friend does not appear to have any physical injuries.
- Encourage your friend to talk with a counselor at a rape treatment center. If your friend is not ready to talk to a counselor "in person," encourage your friend to call a rape hotline and talk with a counselor on the telephone.
- If your friend is willing to report the crime, encourage her or him to contact the police as soon as possible. Police officers can help victims get medical care and resolve concerns about their safety.
To assist your friend in finding information and resources, call a rape hotline, go to a rape crisis center, or look on the Internet (visit www.911rape.org).
Offer to accompany your friend to get help, such as medical care, an evidentiary examination, counseling, or other services. Offer to be with your friend when she or he makes a police report or tells a parent or boyfriend.
Understand what your friend is going through:
- Remember that your friend has been through an emotionally painful, traumatic experience. Your friend may act differently after the assault. Some of your friend's reactions may be hard to watch, but your "being there" for your friend can help a lot.
- Be patient and understanding. The trauma of a sexual assault does not go away quickly. It may take a while for your friend to recover. Sometimes friends and family members expect sexual assault victims to be "over it" in a few weeks. Understand that the pain the victim feels, and the symptoms, may last for a long time.
Respect your friend's privacy and confidentiality. Don't disclose what the victim tells you to other people. Let your friend decide whom she or he wants to confide in.
Take care of yourself, too. If someone you know is raped, you may feel upset. Even if your friend doesn't want to talk to a counselor, you can get support for yourself. Talking to a counselor can help you understand your own reactions and what you and your friend are going through. A counselor can also give you ideas about how to help your friend.