How to Help a Friend or Family Member
First and foremost, believe and support the survivor. It takes immense courage to share their story and you might be the first person they decide to confide in. We ask you to never place blame upon the survivor. The only person who could have stopped the event from happening is the perpetrator.
Listen and Support
Offer a listening and nonjudgmental ear. Try not to offer solutions or tell the survivor how they “should” deal with the event. It is important that you do not try to take control of the situation. You might not agree with how the survivor is behaving or working through their trauma; however, it is vital that you walk the path of healing with them.
Fear is a common reaction after an assault occurs. An important part of helping a survivor is identifying ways they can re-establish feeling physically and emotionally safe. Do you need to contact the authorities? Do you need to move to a different residence hall? Ask your friend what would make her/him feel safe and how you can help them accomplish this. If stalking or harassment is ongoing, help a friend make a safety plan for immediate danger. The Phoenix Center can also assist with safety planning.
Empower the survivor to make their own decisions to gain back control over their life. Allow them to make the decisions about what is best for them. Separate your feelings and needs from the survivor’s feelings and needs.
Research local professional support options for your friend or family member. If the survivor needs medical care, know where they can receive a Sexual Assault Nursing Examination (SANE) exam. Also, know of advocacy and counseling support services. If the survivor wants to report the violence to authorities or Title IX, be aware of who to contact and offer to be available during the reporting process.
Things You Can Say
- I believe you
- I am sorry this happened to you
- I am here to support you, whatever you decide
- Thank you for telling me
- How can I help?