Surviving sexual assault, stalking and dating violence can be extremely traumatic. Often, survivors feel very alone and isolated from help, understanding and support. It is important to understand what kinds of things you can do and say to help a friend or family member who is dealing with this type of pain and suffering. Here's how you can help.
It's not your fault.
I'm sorry this happened to you.
You don't deserve to be abused or assaulted.
You have rights and options.
There is support available for you.
LISTEN: Give your friend your undivided attention as she is talking with you.
BELIEVE: Believe what she tells you. It has taken a great deal of strength and courage for her to tell you.
DO NOT JUDGE: Be careful not to make judgments about the situation she is in or the decisions she has made or appeared to make.
UNDERSTAND WHAT SHE IS SAYING: Devote your efforts to understanding the thoughts, feelings and experiences she has chosen to share with you - not to finding out things you want to know.
BE SUPPORTIVE: Support her feelings as well as her choice to share them with you and acknowledge that it may have been difficult to do so.
REPEAT THAT VIOLENCE, ABUSE OR ASSAULT ARE NOT HER FAULT: It is common for survivors to feel they have done something wrong. Continue to remind her that the violence, abuse or assault was the other person's choice and that's where the blame belongs.
SUPPORT HER RIGHT TO MAKE HER OWN DECISIONS: Sometimes we think we know what is best. Remember, she has the right to make her own decisions. Telling her what to do will not be helpful.
PROVIDE RESOURCE INFORMATION: Offer the telephone number of the local domestic violence or sexual assault program. You can also provide the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800)799-SAFE or the Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network (800)656-HOPE. Offer to talk to an adult with her.
EDUCATE YOURSELF: Work to understand the dynamics of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking and the available options.
PROTECT HER PRIVACY: She has chosen to tell you. It is not your place to tell others, with the exception of informing a teacher or another adult who will offer help and support. Make sure to do this if your friend is in danger.
Both females and males can be survivors of sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Studies consistently reveal, however, that survivors of these crimes are more often female and that perpetrators are more often male, which is why on this page we have identified the victim as female and the perpetrator as male. To deny this reality only delays finding a solution. This reference does not change the fact that every survivor - male or female - deserves support, options, resources and safety. You can help and you can make a difference.