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How to help a friend

How can I help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?

Sexual trauma involves a loss of power and control.  It is important that after an assault, a victim regains a sense of control by making informed decisions.  Allow them to decide how they want to move forward in all aspects, including whether or not to report to police and/or seek medical attention or counseling.  For UMSL employees, it is important to share your Title IX reporting responsibilities before listening to a survivor's story.

  • One of the most important responses you can have to a friend who has told you they have been assaulted is by saying “I believe you.”
  • It is NEVER the survivors fault.  Survivors often blame themselves for the assault.  Assure them that nothing they did caused the assault, even if they were drinking.  The only person responsible for the assault is the offender. Consent is an understood as an affirmative agreement to engage in various sexual or nonsexual activities.  Consent is enthusiastic, clearly communicated and ongoing yes.  The absence of no is not yes.  Nonconsensual sex is rape.  A person who is substantially impaired cannot give consent.
  • Listen and be supportive.  Understand that they may not want to tell you everything immediately.  They may fear others reactions and feel ashamed of what happened.
  • Connect them with resources in the community that can give them information and guidance.
  • Understand that sexual assault can take on many different forms and survivors come in all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. 

How can I help a friend who is being abused?

  • Be supportive!  Let them know you are concerned about their safety and want to help.
  • Listen patiently and without judging.   Acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of their decisions.
  • Help your friend recognize that the abuse is not “normal” and it’s not their fault.  Everyone deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship.
  • Connect them with resources in the community that can give them information and guidance.
  • Do not contact the abuser or publicly post negative things about them online.  It’ll only worsen the situation for your friend.