DO believe them.
DO NOT judge them, question the validity of their experience, or tell them things they could have done differently. Remember that sexual assault is always the perpetrator’s fault, never the survivor’s.
DO keep what they’ve told you confidential, if that’s what they want.
DO offer to support them in any way they may need you to, but DO NOT push anything on them that they don’t want. Remember that the healing process varies from person to person, and it is up to the survivor to determine its course.
It is important to frame their experiences in the way they describe them to you. For example, if a friend comes to you describing what sounds to you like a sexual assault, do not discuss their experience with them using the phrase “sexual assault” unless they themselves frame their experience in that way. Be sensitive to the fact that they may not conceptualize their experience with those words, and it might be jarring to hear them.
As sexual assault can be very disempowering, it is extremely important to allow them to take control of their recovery. Don’t push them to seek medical attention or report unless they seek your help to do so.
If you’d like more info on how to support a friend, feel free to email us. We will also periodically have workshops that do survivor support training, and take on new Advocates at the beginning of every spring semester. Email us for application details!
Finally, remember the importance of self-care. Not just for your friend, but for you!