Sexual Assault Resources

How to help a friend

If someone tells you they were sexually assaulted, or are in a controlling and abusive relationship, or have been/are being stalked, know that you might be the first person they have told. Your response may influence whether they feel safe and supported telling others or seeking additional help. They might not know how to tell you what happened or what is happening.  They may not know how to sort out their feelings, but they do know something is wrong.

Be a good listener

It takes incredible strength and courage for someone to reveal that they were assaulted, or that they are in an abusive relationship, or that they’re being stalked. Your friend may need your support now and in the future. Let them choose when they want to talk and how much to share.

Helpful responses

  • Thank you for telling me.
  • I believe you.
  • It’s not your fault.
  • I’m sorry that happened to you.
  • What can I do to help?
  • You are a strong person.
  • I’m glad you told me.

Things to avoid

  • Don’t interrogate or ask for specific details.
  • Don’t ask “why” questions such as “why did you go there?” or “why didn’t you scream?”
  • Don’t tell your friend what you would have done or what they should have done.


Remind your friend that this was not their fault. Let them know that you believe them and avoid judging them for what has happened.

Keep it confidential

Your friend has chosen to tell you something that may be hurtful to reveal to others. Honor that and don’t tell anyone what was shared with you without your friend’s permission. If you are worried about your friend, talk to them about the resources that are available to help.

Provide options and information

Your friend may want to consider seeking medical care, collecting evidence, reporting to the police, and seeking counseling. It is important to provide information and to allow your friend to make their own choices.

Let them make their own decisions

You can provide options and information and always let your friend make their own decisions. A person who has been assaulted or abused has been disempowered by another person, and it may be important in their recovery to practice control over their own decisions. Instead of taking charge, ask how you can help. Offer to accompany your friend to seek any services that they choose to use. Support the decisions your friend makes even if you don’t agree with them. Take your lead from them on how you may best help them.

Remind your friend that you care and that they are not alone

Your friend may worry that they will be thought of or treated differently by other people. Let your friend know that that is not the case for you and that you are available to help them.

Take care of yourself and be proud of the fact that you care

Learn as much as you can about these issues and about available resources. This will help you better understand your friend’s experiences and how healing may begin to happen.

Be aware of your own reactions – whether feelings of sadness, anger, confusion or hurt. Try to distinguish what you are doing to make yourself feel better from what you are doing to help your friend.

Seek support for yourself. Know how much you can give and what your limits are. Your support plays a critical role in their recovery. Talking with someone who can help you work through your own feelings may better enable you to support your friend. There are resources available for you, too.

Seek Counseling