It's important to remember that you cannot rescue a friend or solve their problems. The following information is intended to help you be a supportive friend and to encourage you to take care of yourself.

Be Patient

There is no set timetable or magical solution for recovering from trauma. They are likely to experience a variety of emotions and responses. Don’t try to take control of the situation by pressuring them to do something that makes them uncomfortable. Allow your friend to recover at their own pace by encouraging them to access resources on campus and practice good self-care.

Supportive vs Harmful Phrases:

Supportive: “How can I best support you through your recovery?”

Harmful: “Just move on and keep living.”

Respect their Privacy

Unless you have serious concerns about your friend’s safety or well-being, don’t insist that your friend “has to” do anything.  They do not have to go to the police, report the event, or seek medical care.  While you should encourage your friend to seek help, the choice is theirs, not yours. If they want to seek medical care or report, offer to accompany them.

Before offering your friend comfort through physical touch (e.g. hugs) make sure they are comfortable. Although you want to comfort them, be aware of their personal space and allow them to set boundaries.

Supportive vs Harmful Phrases:

Supportive: “I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”

Harmful:  “You need to go to the police right now.”

Focus on your Friend

After hearing that someone has harmed your friend, it is normal to want to confront (or even hurt) that person. Focus your energy on supporting your friend rather than attacking (verbally or physically) the accused.

Supportive vs Harmful Phrases:

Supportive: “You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

Harmful: “I can’t believe this happened to you. Let’s confront your attacker!”

Listen and Support

Remember that everyone experiences trauma differently.  Use language that supports and validates your friend’s experience.  Communicate without judgment. You may want to ask them questions, but generally, it’s better just to listen to what they want to share.

Supportive vs Harmful Phrases:

Supportive: “Thank you for telling me. It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”

Harmful: “How much did you have to drink last night?”

Get Support for Yourself

Sometimes the friends and loved ones of victims can also feel the impact of the crime. This is called secondary victimization. Hearing about relationship abuse, sexual assault, and stalking can be upsetting. You may feel angry, sad, frustrated, and helpless. Remember, as important as it is to be present for your friend, it is also important to set boundaries and take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own emotional, physical, and mental health.  Be honest with your friend, and with yourself, about what kind and how much support you can individually provide.

Learn more about Self Care for Friends and Family

ADDITIONAL Tips on Talking to Victims

Local Resources

  • Below are some local resources for supporting a friend who has experienced sexual assault, or dating or domestic violence.
  • Be trained by Pards Against Sexual Assault (PASA): PASA, upon request, will give an educational presentation to your student organization or group on gender violence and sexual assault awareness. Connect with PASA
  • Be Safe Zone Trained: In order to help LGBTQ+ identified students, faculty, and staff navigate these experiences and find support or allies, Lafayette College provides Safe Zone Trainings. Safe Zone Trainings are opportunities to learn about LGBTQ+ identities, gender, and sexuality, allyship, and examine prejudice, assumptions, and privilege. Learn more about being Safe Zone Trained
  • Learn more from The Counseling Center: They offer individual and group counseling to all students as well as numerous educational tools. The Counseling Center provides consultations on how best to assist a student that you believe is in duress. Lafayette College Counseling Center Consultations