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Support for Survivors

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The first step to helping a friend or someone that has been sexually assaulted is to believe them, listen carefully to them and provide support. Your friend has taken an important step in seeking help and your response to their disclosure may determine the next step for your friend.

Although there is no universal reaction to being sexually assaulted, many survivors feel guilty, often blaming themselves instead of the perpetrator. Survivors sometimes feel they could or should have done something differently that would have prevented the assault. Other common feelings include fear, embarrassment and confusion. It is important as a friend, to understand that a sexual assault is something which they had no control over happening to them. Simply telling your friend that is was not their fault can help to alleviate some of the confusion and overwhelming emotions they may be experiencing. These feelings, along with denial may be why it takes days, weeks, months or years for the survivor to tell anyone.

For the person who is close to a survivor of sexual assault, this can be a very difficult experience. You may be having some of the same feelings as the survivor. Guilt, anger, helplessness, and confusion are common feelings. Do not be afraid to get help for yourself as well as the survivor by setting up an appointment at the Counseling Center.

  • Believe the person.
  • Listen without judging.
  • Let the person know you support and care about them.
  • Let the person know he/she is not responsible for the incident.
  • Emphasize there is help available.
  • Let the person know he/she is not alone.
  • Let the person know about available services and counseling. (It is vital to let the survivor have control about when and if they access any services available)
  • It is important to let survivors make their own decisions. Survivors experienced a lack of control during their assault. It is important for friends and family to do everything possible to ensure their loved one regains their sense of power and control over their life.