Your support to a friend can make a big difference to someone who has been sexually assaulted.
If someone discloses their experience with sexual violence to you and you don't know what to say or do, it can help to explore this resource on Knowing What to Say to a Trauma Survivor
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--which can be compounded if their experience or story is silenced, unreported, or shamed--so it is especially important for you to be there for support. Let your friend talk - don't interrupt or offer advice unless they specifically ask for it. Show interest in what they say by sitting close, face-to-face, and making eye-contact as much as possible. 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 them some of the things that they said. If you don't know what to say, start with "I am sorry that this happened to you."
One of the first things you need to ensure is that your friend is safe from harm. You also need to ensure that they are not going to hurt themselves 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 they are 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 their power and agency taken away. Throughout the healing process, you must let your friend make all their own decisions. They may want to be taken care of, but it is important that you only present options and give your friend the power to make their own decisions. Unless they specifically ask you for advice, you can simply say, "do whatever you need to do to heal and remain safe."
Don't Define the Experience
As part of helping and giving the survivor the ability to make their own decisions, it is important that they 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 compare their experience to anything you have experienced or someone else's experiences--this can feel minimizing and invalidating. 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.