Supporting 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 following:

  • "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 their story more than once.
  • 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 they did the best they 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?

Support and Education

  • 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 them.
  • 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 they are not alone.