How You Can Help – For Friends

What do you do when a friend comes to you with the personal information that they were just sexually assaulted?

Listen! Your friend may really need someone to hear their story. Be non-judgmental and understanding. Reassure them that it was not their fault. “You didn’t do anything to deserve this; it’s not your fault.”

Tell them you believe them. It is important for someone who has been sexually assaulted to have people believe in what has happened. Remember most people do not lie about being abused or assaulted.

Remain calm, attentive and concerned. Express concern: “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

Let them express them emotions with judgment. Normalize: “What you’re feeling is normal for someone who has been through this.”

Try not to minimize their feelings by saying “it couldn’t have been that bad”, or “Well, you’re still alive aren’t you?” Support their feelings by saying things like “it sounds like it was really scary” or “Sounds like you feel really terrible.”

Ensure physical safety. “Are you safe now?” “Did they use a protection?” and offer to be with her to get medical attention.

If hearing what happened is too much for you, tell them gently and honestly. If you can’t help, offer to assist them in finding someone else who can.

Don’t tell other people without first asking the survivor. Your friend has trusted you with their story and you should respect their trust.
Provide information to reduce anxiety about the unknown. “We can contact someone at the Sexual Assault Centre who can help you or even just give you more information confidentially.”

Let them be in control by allowing her to make the final decision regarding actions to take.

Convey a sense of hope: “I’m really glad you’ve reached out for help.”

Remember it is important to be there for your friend later on too. During the days, weeks and months following the assault your friend will still need your support.

Crisis and Victim Service support is available for family, partners and friends. Please call the Information and Crisis Line (383-3232) in Victoria, or VictimLink at 1-800-563-0808.