You are supporting a friend
Safe at UNCSA
You are supporting a friend
When someone has been sexually assaulted, it is likely they will seek support from a friend. As a friend, it can be difficult to know how to respond. Individuals have different reactions following a sexual assault. There is no right or wrong reaction. Here are some strategies you may find helpful when supporting your friend:
- When a person has been sexually assaulted, their power has been taken away from them. It is important that you allow your friend to maintain control. This will help them regain a sense of strength, power and safety. Offer information and options to your friend, but allow them to make decision. It is important that you support them in their decisions, even if you disagree with the decision. It is also likely that your friend may change their mind after making a decision. This is okay and completely normal. Continue to support your friend!
- Believe your friend. It may be very difficult for your friend to share their story with you. Your reaction can have an impact on whether or not your friend continues to share their story. Tell your friend you believe them and want to help. Validate their feelings. Limit your questions about what happened — asking too many questions about the details may imply to your friend that you doubt them. You can be supportive without knowing all the details.
- Listen. It is important not to interrupt your friend. There may be moments of silence. Don’t feel pressured to say something. Your friend may simply be thinking about what to say next. Allow your friend time to gather their thoughts.
- Respect your friend’s privacy. Don’t share their story without their permission. Make sure to take care of yourself. You can ask for help for yourself without disclosing your friend's identity.
- Pay attention to your language. We use the language “victims/survivors” to acknowledge individuals may identify with different terminology and identities related to their experience. We encourage people to mirror and reflect the language someone uses, which may include “victim,” “survivor,” or other terminology.
- Acknowledge that your friend may be experiencing intersecting traumas. Any individual can experience harassment, sexual violence, interpersonal violence, and/or stalking, regardless of their identities. Individuals of marginalized communities, however, often face higher rates of harassment and violence and additional barriers in seeking help and support. Violence intersects with the different identities an individual holds and can impact how someone experiences violence and/or harassment, responds to trauma, accesses help and support, makes decisions about reporting, or moves forward in their coping and healing.
- Educate yourself about options and resources to offer to your friend. If the sexual assault happened in the last few days, there are some time sensitive decisions your friend may need to make:
- If your friend is female, she can take emergency contraception. Emergency contraception is most effective when taken as soon as possible.
- Medication to prevent the development of some sexually transmitted infections can also be obtained confidentially.
- Your friend may also choose to go to a health care provider in the local community or contact the Winston-Salem Police Department's Domestic Violence or Victim Assistance units at 336-773-7860 or 336-773-7741, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Collection of evidence needs to occur within five days. It is important for your friend to know that they can have forensic evidence collected, even if they decide not to file a police report. Collecting evidence allows your friend to have the full range of options available if they later decide to report the sexual assault.
It is helpful to provide your friend with these options and allow them to decide what they would like to do.
Please know there are resources available to you, as the person supporting a friend who was sexually assault. When you get support for yourself, you are better able to support your friend.
These resources include: