For Friends and Family
You may be the first person someone talks to after an experience of sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, or harassment. It is important to acknowledge that each person’s experience is different. There is no one course of action that a survivor "should take" or a specific way that a survivor "should act." There are, however, some important things to keep in mind when offering support.
- Listen. It is not your job as their friend to investigate or ask them questions about details. Concentrate on understanding their feelings.
- Believe. Do not blame them; remind them it is not their fault.
- Respect confidentiality. Remember the survivor's story belongs to them; please respect their privacy.
- Ask them what support looks like for them. Empower your friend to make decisions for themselves.
- Empathize. Understand everyone has a different way of healing.
- Be supportive. Let them know they are not alone. Do not rush your friend to be “normal” again.
- Thank you for telling/trusting me.
- I believe you.
- I am sorry this happened to you.
- It is not your fault.
- I care about you.
- You are not alone.
- What can I do to help you?
- When you are ready, help is available.
Taking Care of Yourself
Learning about a friend’s assault or experience of gender-based violence can be extremely difficult. However, avoid processing your feelings about the assault with the survivor. As a friend and support person, you may experience overwhelming feelings of anger, fear, guilt, sadness, or other emotions. It is important to know your own limitations. Remember: do not feel the need to be an expert. There are great resources at the University and in the community that can support your friend and also you. Taking care of yourself might include talking with an advocate or a counselor.