What You Need To Know: When a friend discloses to you, you may feel a range of emotions: shock, surprise, denial, sadness or anger. Whatever you are feeling, it’s normal and natural. But don’t let your emotions stand in the way of being a supportive, empowering friend.
Sexual Violence Impacts All of Us
- 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 6 men will be sexually abused or assaulted in their lifetimes.
- There is no typical reaction to the trauma of sexual violence. Survivors respond in lots of different ways.
My friend told me s/he was sexually abused or assaulted. What do I do?
- Be humbled: Someone trusted you with this information. Honor it.
- Address safety concerns: Is your friend physically and psychologically safe? Do they have the support they need right now?
- Say this: I believe you. It’s not your fault. Thank you for sharing this with me. You cannot repeat these messages too often or in too may ways. Listen actively. Be genuine. Open your heart.
- Express empathy: Empathy means expressing that a survivor’s feelings and thoughts make sense to you. There’s no right way to respond to being assaulted. Reflect back what you hear, rather than judge it. And express verbally that the survivor’s feelings DO make sense, and are understandable given what just happened.
- Make the call: Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline or local rape crisis center for specific guidance on options for your friend.
- Do this: Empower him or her to make informed choices about what to do next. Provide them with options, not strongly worded advice. Support THEIR decisions. Remember, their power was taken away from them. You can help give it back.
- Don’t forget: Get help for yourself. Don’t carry the burden alone. Demonstrate healthy emotions and self-care. You need all the emotional strength you can muster to be a supportive friend in both a crisis and for the long-term.
Where To Find Help
As a friend, you don’t have to go it alone. If you are educated about sexual violence prevention and response, you might already have the information you need. If you are new to the topic, please go out and get some help from one of the many resources available to you and to survivors. It’s okay to call “for a friend,” too!
In the Community
- Look up the local community organizations that support survivors of sexual violence. Most of the 400+ rape crisis centers across the country provide FREE and CONFIDENTIAL services for survivors and their friends/families.
Free and Confidential 24/7 Resources
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 656.HOPE
- CrisisTextLine: TEXT “GO” TO 741-741
Inspired to do more?
- Get more practical advice on supporting survivors, being an advocate or addressing troubling behaviors at The Uncomfortable Conversation. We regularly produce videos you can share with your networks.
- Become a trained volunteer at a rape crisis center. Host a prevention workshop in your community. Raise money to benefit organizations that support survivors.
Together, we can support survivors and prevent sexual violence!