When a friend is in pain or in need, our first instinct is to help. But what is the best way to help a friend who has experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, or relationship violence?
What to say
The single most important thing you can do to help your friend is to believe them and offer support. Your friend is vulnerable, and your reaction can influence whether they choose to share information with others, including the police or mental and physical health counseling services.
- Believe and let them know that you are glad they felt comfortable sharing this with you.
- Assure and reassure them that what happened was not their fault. Self-blame and self-doubt are common reactions of victims of sexual violence.
What to do
Reacting or acting in a supportive way can help your friend feel safe.
- Be calm. If you are in crisis, the victim or survivor may feel the need to take care of you rather than themselves. Be aware of the importance of separating your own experiences and emotions.
- Listen and don’t judge. Let them decide what and how much information they want to share with you.
- Be informed. Learn about the services available at Tulane and in the city and be able to assist them in connecting to resources. You can call any of the resources on campus to ask them about the services they provide--friends often make the first outreach to support services, helping the victim feel more comfortable with connecting to the University's support options.
- Encourage. If they choose to report to law enforcement or the university, support them in those choices. Offer to go with them to speak to Victim Support Services or to the Police.
Supporting someone who is in pain can take a toll on your own mental health and well-being. Remember to take care of yourself. Every resource available to victims is also available to you too.