What Can I Do?

  • Listen to what the person is saying. Believe them when they say that they have experienced something awful. 
  • Express sincere empathy. Expressing empathy can be a powerful validation of a survivor's experience. 
  • Provide referrals to on and off-campus support services.
  • Validate feelings. It's not uncommon for people to feel angry when something like this happens. 
  • Don't make assumptions about the gender of the people involved. Sexual assault occurs among all genders and sexual orientations.
  • Don't tell the person what to do. It's important to empower survivors to make decisions for themselves and to have those decisions respected. 
  • Don't tell the person how to feel. Survivors may feel numb or experience shame, anger, depression, and/or many other feelings. 
  • Remember, everyone reacts differently to trauma. 
  • Educate yourself about the myths of rape. Remember: rape is never the fault of the survivor, but the fault of the rapist. While this may seem simple and obvious, much of the misinformation that exists points to the victim as being responsible for the rape. To truly be supportive, one must believe the survivor while disbelieving and challenging the myths that surround rape. 
  • Relax. Try not to worry much about "saying the right thing." Being available to listen is far more important. Let the survivor know that you care. 
  • Your friend may or may not also be experiencing Rape Trauma Syndrome. The symptoms of Rape Trauma Syndrome can last long after the assault.