If a friend or someone you know is accused of sexual assault, it is likely that you have questions and may be struggling to understand what has happened. You may be experiencing a range of emotions such as helplessness, anger, confusion or betrayal. If your friend has told you that he/she has been accused of a sexual assault, he/she may be turning to you for help and support. You may be unsure how to respond to your friend or the situation. Here are a few ways you can help your friend through this experience:
- Direct your friend to resources. There are individuals on campus who are available to talk with a person who has been accused of sexual assault. These professionals can help that person understand what may happen next. Helping your friend access these resources is a step you can take to provide support in what may be a confusing and emotional time for both of you. Encourage your friend to speak with a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).
- Recommend that your friend seek counseling to deal with the emotions that he/she may be experiencing. It may also be helpful for you to seek counseling to help you process any emotions and trauma you may be experiencing as a result of this situation. Counseling services are available through University Psychological Services.
- Get educated on the issue of sexual assault. The information on this website can answer some of the questions you may have. If you are seeking additional information on sexual assault, please contact a member of the SART.
- Be available to listen in a non-judgmental manner. He/she may not feel comfortable talking about the matter, but let your friend know you will listen.
Remember, being a friend does NOT mean:
- Approving of all your friend's actions and/or choices. You can help your friend without making a judgment as to whether or not a sexual assault occurred. Determining if a crime or judicial violation took place is the responsibility of the legal system and/or campus administrators.
- Taking action. Violence or retaliation is not the answer to helping your friend. Remember, harassing and threatening behaviors are not helpful and could undermine any court or judicial proceeding taking place.
Helpful phrases to encourage your friend to talk:
- What do you want to do?
- How do you feel about that?
- Tell me more about __________?
- What have you tried so far?
- What does he/she think about that?
- What does that mean to you?
- What do you think about that?
- What is it that bothers you about that? In what way?
- Do you want to _________?
- What would you like to see happen?
- What I'm hearing you say is _______.
- What is the best thing that could happen?
- What is the worst thing that could happen?