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Center for Advocacy, Response and Education

Support a Friend or Family Member

How to Start the Conversation

Seek out a private, quiet place to begin talking. Allow plenty of time to talk at length. Start by saying the

  • It is not your fault.
  • I am here to listen.
  • I am sorry you are experiencing this. 
  • You don't deserve this. 

During the conversation 

What do you do?

  • Listen. Your friend may need to tell you about the assault over and over again.
  • Believe. Survivors need to know that you believe what happened. It is rare that people make up stories about sexual assault.
  • Validate feelings. Acknowledge your friend's sadness, anger, fear, or confusion.
  • Assure. Tell your friend that she/he did the best she/he/ze could do to survive the situation and that no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.
  • Don't say "When are you going to get over this?"
  • Don't say "Why don't you just leave your partner/girlfriend/boyfriend?"
  • Don't blame or judge your friend.

Now that you know, what can you do?


  • Avoid treating your friend like a helpless victim.
  • Healing takes time. Respect your friend's pace and be patient.
  • Accept your friend's decision whether to report the assault and/or to cooperate with the prosecution.
  • Help your friend with plans, but don't make decisions for her/him/ze.
  • Respect your friend's right to tell or not tell others about the assault or abuse.
  • Only give advice if and when your friend asks for it.


  • Remind your friend that sexual assault and physical domestic violence are crimes and are never the victim's fault.
  • Remind your friend that she/he is not alone.