Date Rape

Date Rape: How can I help a friend?

Engle date rape how imageUnless you have been a victim of sexual assault, you cannot fully understand the victim's feelings. You will not be able to "cure" the situation or make life as it was before the assault. However, your response can make a difference for the victim. For victims to overcome sexual assault, they need empathy, understanding, and a listening ear. You can provide important information and needed support.

There are several steps that you can take to help your friend:

  1. Remain calm. It is common for you to feel shock and rage, but expressing these to your friend may cause them more trauma.
  2. Focus on your friend's needs. You are there for them. The victim is not there to help you with your feelings. Ask what you can do to help.
  3. Encourage medical attention. Your friend may be frightened about seeking medical help, and yet medical attention is imperative to identify possible injury. You can be a support and encouragement by accompanying them to a medical professional or helping them arrange for medical care.
  4. Give your friend control. All the control has been stripped from them during the assault. It is important that you allow them to make decisions such as who to tell and what steps to take next. Do not be overly protective or patronizing.
  5. Let them express their feelings. Allow the victim to yell, cry, express anger, etc. Remember they are expressing feelings about the assault, not about you.
  6. Listen to your friend. Really listen and don't give "pat" answers or advice. If the victim wishes to be silent, do not force discussion. If you don't know what to say, that's OK.
  7. Convey unconditional acceptance. Make it clear to your friend that you believe that the assault happened and that the assault is the fault of the abuser, NOT the victim.
  8. Encourage counseling. Inform them about the free professional and confidential counseling services available to them in the Counseling Services Office on campus or offer to help them find counseling off campus. But let the decision for counseling be made by your friend.
  9. Ask before touching your friend. You may want to comfort the him or her by holding or hugging, but your friend may be fearful of any touch. Abide by their wishes.
  10. Seek counseling for yourself if you feel overwhelmed. You are likely to experience some strong reactions when you hear of the assault, such as rage, helplessness, and a desire for revenge. You cannot ignore your feelings but you also cannot share them with the victim right now. Seek out someone you can trust - an RA, RD, counselor, chaplain, or rape crisis counselor - to talk about your feelings.