Supporting a Friend

When someone has been sexually assaulted, it is likely he or she will seek support from a friend.  Knowing how to respond will be very helpful to your friend. This page offers guidance on ways to best support a friend who has been sexually assaulted.  Please know there are resources available to you.  When you get support for yourself, you are better able to support your friend. These resources include:

Counseling and Psychological Services 
Title IX Coordinator

Individuals react different following a sexual assault. There is no right or wrong reaction. As a friend, it can be difficult to know how to respond.  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 him or her regain a sense of strength, power, and safety.  Offer information and options to your friend, but allow him or her 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 his or her story.  Tell your friend you believe him or her 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 him or her.  You can be supportive without knowing all of 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 his or her 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.
 
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.  Your friend can receive emergency contraception confidentially at the Wellness Center.  Medication to prevent the development of some sexually transmitted infections can also be obtained confidentially at the Wellness Center.  Your friend may also choose to go to a health care provider in the local community or the Victim Service Center of Central Florida.  Collection of evidence needs to occur within five days.  It is important for your friend to know that he or she can have forensic evidence collected at the Victim Service Center of Central Florida, even if they decide not to file a police report. Collecting evidence allows your friend to have the full range of options available if he or she later decides to report the sexual assault. It is helpful to provide your friend with these options and allow him or her to decide what he or she would like to do.