Listen, Believe & Suggest Help
How well a survivor heals from sexual assault and rape is greatly affected by the response of those they tell. Know that sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, disability or other factors. Take a look at these guidelines so that you can be prepared in the event someone close to you is assaulted.
Be aware of your own feelings about sexual abuse.
If you are uncomfortable talking about this issue, it is okay. Helping the survivor identify who might be able to talk with them about the issue can also be supportive.
Try to respond calmly and openly.
Regardless of your comfort level, point the survivor to the resources on campus and in the community who are here to provide help and options at this critical time. Hearing about sexual abuse can be difficult. It can be very helpful to a survivor if you remain calm and non-judgmental.
Refrain from negative comments about the perpetrator.
Keep in mind that most often, about 85% of the time, individuals who are sexually assaulted/abused are assaulted by someone they know. As a result they may have mixed feelings about the person.
Do not interrogate.
Let the individual tell you about the abuse on his/her terms. Do not pressure the person but let him/her talk when they are comfortable. Never ask questions such as, “Why did you go there,” or “Why did you trust that person?”, etc.
Let the individual know that you believe him/her.
Fear of not being believed is a concern expressed by many survivors. Being believed is important for people of all ages.
Commend the survivor for talking and reaching out for help.
Talking about the abuse is often a big step. Acknowledge this.
Encourage the survivor to seek medical services
If the assault happened recently, urge the survivor to reach out for medical services to prevent STDs, and gather evidence should the survivor choose to report the assault. Survivors often have deep feelings of guilt or shame about the abuse. Only sexual offenders are at fault for the abuse.
Assure the survivors that they are not to blame for the assault.
Survivors often have deep feelings of guilt or shame about the abuse. Only sexual offenders are at fault for the abuse.
Respect the privacy of the survivor.
Provide additional confidential and campus resources about supportive services.