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Sexual Violence and Relationship Violence

Helping a Friend

Many times friends find out someone was hurt after the assault has happened. Experiencing a sexual assault, stalking and/or dating violence can be traumatic. Survivors of these various forms of violence may feel:

...angry, empty, scared, alone, misunderstood, confused, and/or isolated from support...

While you cannot ‘fix’ what happened, and you should never approach the attacker on behalf of the victim, there are things that you can do to help if they have been hurt.

If a friend or family member has been hurt...

  • Keep anything said confidential. A person turning to you for support and advice may need to feel they are safe and in control. Breaking their trust could further hurt the survivor. The only time you may need to break confidentiality is if you feel your friend is a risk to herself or others (example: if you feel your friend may be suicidal). In these instances, calling the Counseling Center or Campus Safety is most appropriate.
  • If you can, stay with your friend, provide a safe environment. You can help create a safe environment for your friend by listening. Believe everything they say. Express your concerns for their safety and offer your support. Do not make promises you cannot keep. Do not ask questions and do not blame your friend for choices they have made. No one asks to be hurt.
  • Encourage (but do not push) your friend to seek support at the Counseling Center or by calling a hotline. Again, a person who has been hurt or is in an abusive relationship may not feel they are in control. Encourage choices that are safer but never force a decision you think is right. Recovery happens in different ways for different people. Perhaps your friend does not want to seek help today, but may want support in the future. Telling your friend that you are there them and reminding them of resources at the Colleges and in the community may be helpful.
  • Suggest, especially in sexual assault situations, that your friend consider a medical examination. Testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and/or pregnancy may be important. Again, do not force your friend to do anything they do not want to do.
  • Seek support and education for yourself. It is never easy to see a friend hurt. And you, too, may need to talk to someone about the situation. You can talk about your experience and seek support for yourself without jeopardizing the confidentiality and safety of your friend.

For more specific ideas and support, please call the HWS Center for Counseling and Student Wellness at (315-781-3388).