If your friend has experienced sexual misconduct, dating violence or stalking, she/he may not be able to or ready to officially report it, but you can still help. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when talking to a friend about their experience:
- DON’T decide what’s best for them. When someone is abused or violated, they often feel victimized and need time to decide what to do.
- DON’T judge them or doubt their story. If a friend is confiding in you about being assaulted or harmed, it is important to not victim blame. For example, don’t say things like, “I told you to break up with him. Why didn’t you listen?”
- DON’T minimize what happened. Sometimes in an effort to make someone feel better, it’s easy to try and say that they will feel better soon or that it’s “no big deal.” These statements may make them feel bad about certain feelings they are having.
- DO let them know they are believed and supported. It is very common for victims of abuse to think that nobody will believe them. If they are confiding in you, they trust that you will be supportive.
- DO ask what they need. People cope and respond differently to being abused. Some like to talk about their feelings. Others like to be alone. Don’t assume you know what they may want or need.
- DO encourage them to seek help. It can be scary to tell an adult or the police about what happened. Remind them that there are people at school who can help. Also, it is very important to encourage them to seek medical help after an assault.
- DO continue to be supportive. After the initial shock of what happened, it can be easy to assume they are ok. Be sure to check in on them even if they seem to be “back to normal.”
- DO take care of yourself. It can be difficult and overwhelming to be present for a friend in need. Remember to take care of yourself and seek out help if needed.