Queen's Sexual Violence Prevention & Response

Sexual Violence Prevention and Response
Sexual Violence Prevention and Response

Give Help

Responding to a disclosure

DO listen to and believe your friend. Be mindful of your tone when your friend tells you about the assault–if you sound doubtful or like you do not believe your friend when (s)he/they discloses things related to the rape/sexual assault, your friend will feel unsupported and may be less likely to seek help from other sources.

DO validate your friend’s feelings about the violence. Tell your friend that what happened was not his/her/their fault, and that (s)he/they did not deserve it. When your friend says something to you that sounds like (s)h/they is blaming her/himself, remind him/her/them that (s)he/they did not deserve what happened.

DO help your friend find resources: people and services which may be able to provide an array of support.

DO offer to spend time with your friend, and try to engage her/him/them in activities that are enjoyable and not related to assault. If these activities include watching movies or television together, be mindful of things that may trigger a memory from the assault (i.e. it may be best to avoid entertainment featuring graphic scenes of sexual assault or violence for a while.)

DO continue to show your friend that you support and care about them. Small things can be really meaningful–cooking dinner together, picking up a favorite dessert or snack item, sending funny articles or YouTube videos. If your friend finds out something upsetting that reminds them about the assault, taking a couple of hours to spend time with them can make a big difference.

DO encourage your friend to be patient with her/himself in moving past the assault. It can take time, and expecting her/himself to move past it quickly ignores the level of trauma that sexual violence causes.

DO remind your friend that (s)he is intelligent, strong, and has people in her/his/their corner who love and support them. This may seem obvious to you, but your friend may feel a combination of emotions that are linked to self-blame, such as feeling stupid or weak.

DO tell your friend that (s)he is not crazy, and that (s)he isn’t alone. It is important to tell your friend that her/his reactions are perfectly normal after what (s)he has been through.

DO warn your friend in advance if you suspect or know that the perpetrator will be in the same room or building (i.e. a party of a mutual friend or campus event). This will allow your friend the opportunity to decide whether or not to attend, and allow for your friend to plan a strategy for how to feel safe during the event or how to exit if feeling unsafe. Plan to be at any event with your friend if you think the perpetrator may be there, or coordinate with other friends who know about the assault so that someone else can be there.

DO understand your own limits. As much as you want to be there for your friend, social workers, psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists have the training to offer long-term support. Take care of yourself and your own mental health.

DO NOT push for explicit details about what happened, what your friend was wearing, what (s)he/they did to encourage or discourage the assault, or how much alcohol/substances were used.

DO NOT ask whether it was "violent." All acts of sexual assault are violent, regardless of how they look from the outside. Asking this question can invalidate the trauma that your friend experienced and make her/him feel unsupported.

DO NOT minimize what happened to your friend. Saying things like "Well, (s)he didn’t hold you down, right?" make it seem as if your friend did not survive a vicious crime (see previous point). Making rape jokes, especially if your friend identifies as a male, can minimize the assault, enhance feelings of self-blame, or make your friend feel that something is wrong with him/her for not “wanting” the assault. Media portrayals of men can lead to the assumption that all men want sex all of the time, but this is far from true.

DO NOT force your friend to report the assault or go to the hospital. It is important for your friend to regain a sense of self-control--offering options and respecting the decision your friend makes can help him/her regain a sense of control over her/his life.

DO NOT tell other people without the permission of your friend. Your friend may want and need privacy at this time, and having her/his name thrown into a rumor mill can cause more anxiety and trauma. If in doubt, you can always ask—“Is it okay if I talk to my mom/my Don/the Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Coordinator about this?” or “Do you want to also tell X and Y friend? I think they would want to support you through this too.”

DO NOT set a timeline for when (s)he/they should be "over it." Sexual violence can be traumatizing, and everyone handles it differently. It can take years for someone to process the violation that happened to them and their body. Saying “You have to stop acting like this” or “Don’t you think that’s enough?” can be very damaging to someone struggling to fully recover from a traumatic event.

DO NOT let your anger about what happened to your friend get the best of you. You may want to physically harm the perpetrator, but you can protect your friend and other members of your campus in other ways. Channel your anger creatively—use it to help your friend get justice through legal channels or to educate your peers and help create a campus environment that is supportive of survivors and intolerant of rape.

DO NOT walk on eggshells around your friend. You need to be sensitive, but your friend may want more than anything to feel a sense of normalcy and routine. Being yourself may help your friend feel more like her/himself.

The information above was adapted from http://cultureofrespect.org/help/help-for-a-friend/how-to-help-a-friend/