Surviving sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, stalking, or sexual exploitation 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.
Tell You Friend
- 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.
Give your friend your undivided attention as he/she is talking with you.
Believe what your friend tells you. It has taken a great deal of strength and courage for your friend to tell you.
Do Not Judge
Be careful not to make judgments about the situation your friend is in or the decisions she/he has made or appeared to make.
Understand What You Friend Is Saying
Devote your efforts to understanding the thoughts, feelings and experiences your friend has chosen to share with you - not to finding out things you want to know.
Support her/his feelings as well as your friend's 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/His Fault
It is common for survivors to feel they have done something wrong. Continue to remind your friend that the violence, abuse or assault was the other person's choice and that's where the blame belongs.
Support Your Friend's Right To Make Their Own Decisions
Sometimes we think we know what is best. Remember, he/she has the right to make his/her own decisions. Telling your friend what to do will not be helpful.
Provide Resource Information
Tell them about their rights and options, including help from the Support and Resource Team.
It may help if you understand the dynamics of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, stalking, or sexual exploitation and the available options.
Adapted from Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board