Usually, the best way to help a sexual assault survivor is to address immediate concerns and progress to longer term issues.
- Physical safety and needs
These may include helping someone seek medical attention, contacting authorities if there is an ongoing risk from the accused, and preserving evidence.
- Emotional safety and needs
These may include active listening, support, and referral to trained counselors or other resources.
- Exploration of criminal, civil, and campus action
Usually, the first option a victim will grapple with is whether or not to report an assault to law enforcement and then whether or not to move forward with a complaint. Understanding options is important in decision-making.
- Long-term care and recovery
This will be on-going, but sensitive action immediately following an assault, referral to appropriate resources, and ongoing support are all important to survivors.
How to Help
If you know someone who is sexually assaulted, it can be helpful to know what to say and do in order to show the person your support. An empathic and educated response from a friend can be a vital element in the healing process.
- If you are escorting a friend to the emergency room take extra clothes. Clothing may be considered evidence and retained by the hospital staff and/or police.
- Remind your friend it’s not their fault. Victims often place unnecessary blame on themselves. To help your friend work through issues of self blame, remind them it’s not their fault and that you care about them.
- Be a good listener. Find a quiet place to talk, and let your friend explain what happened at their own pace and in their own words. Refrain from telling your friend what they must do or what you would have done.
- Give your friend control. Ask your friend how they want to be treated, especially with regard to personal space. This includes where you’re seated during the conversation.
- Help your friend get help. Offer to provide phone numbers, information, transportation, etc.
- Let your friend regain control of his/her life. Remember this is an essential part of the healing process. Allow your friend the time and space they need to make their own decisions and support them even if you don’t agree with the decisions they make.
- Ask the right questions. Don't ask questions that place blame such as "Why didn't you scream?" or "Why did you go to his/her room?" or "What were you wearing?" Instead ask sensitive questions that remind your friend that you’re on their side.
- Don’t downplay what happened. Don't imply that it wasn't a "real" rape because your friend knows the person who assaulted them.
- You don’t have to do it all on your own. Helping a friend can be a very difficult task. Be sure to seek advice or counseling for yourself to diffuse some of the stress that you are feeling as you help your friend.
- The investigation of sexual misconduct is of the highest priority. Remember that the College will not refer alleged victims or student witnesses for judicial action for extraneous violations such as alcohol and drug use that occurred around the time of the assault.