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HOW TO BE A SUPPORTIVE FRIEND
Your support to a friend can make a big difference to someone who has been sexually assaulted.
Be a Friend
Of all the things you can do at this time, perhaps most important is to be yourself and to be the best friend you can be. Your friend is feeling a lot of emotions right now, probably including loneliness and isolation, so, it is especially important for you to be there for support. Let your friend talk - don't interrupt. Show interest in what she/he says by sitting close, face-to-face, and making eye-contact as much as possible. Nod your head occasionally to let your friend know that you are still with her/him and listening. You may feel nervous about stalls and silences - they are okay - just let them happen. If your friend needs help to continue talking, try repeating back to her/him some of the things that she/he said.
One of the first things you need to ensure is that your friend is safe from harm. You also need to ensure that he/she is not going to hurt her/himself or somebody else. If you are worried about anybody's safety, you must get help even if your friend doesn't want you to tell anyone. Immediately contact Campus Security (651-696-6555), or the Student Affairs Office (651-696-6220).
Believe your friend. Statistics show that there is no reason to think that s/he is lying about having been abused. More than almost anything, your friend needs your trust. Additionally, be sure not to blame your friend for suffering this abuse. No one asks to be assaulted. Maintaining your support of them and your confidentiality of their situation is very important. Confidentiality is important but not as important as you and your friend’s safety.
Let Your Friend Make All the Decisions
In having been sexually assaulted, your friend has had all her/his power taken away. Throughout the healing process, you must let your friend make all her/his own decisions. S/he may want to be taken care of, but it is important that you only present options and give your friend the power to make his or her own decisions.
Don't Define the Experience
As part of helping and giving the survivor the ability to make her/his own decisions, it is important that s/he be allowed to define the experience. Do not label the experience "rape" or "abuse" before the survivor is willing and able to do so. Do not assume the person who assaulted your friend is of the opposite sex. Same-sex sexual assault is seldom talked about but is just as painful, whether you friend identifies as gay, straight, bisexual or questioning.
It is very difficult to hear stories about sexual violence. Throughout this process, remember to take care of yourself, to find someone to talk to, and to get counseling if necessary. Any of the resources available to survivors are also available to you as a friend of a survivor.
Also see: Concerned Persons Resource Guide (pdf)