How to Support a Survivor of Sexual Assault

Believe Your Friend

Remember it's often very difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story, and your reaction may affect whether or not they choose to continue to share this information with others and seek further support. Tell your friend you believe him or her and you want to support him or her in any way you can.

Respect Privacy  

Don't share your friend's story with others unless you have that person's permission to do so.


It is natural when listening to a story to want to ask questions and get details about what transpired. In this situation, however, it is best to allow the survivor to control what and how much they would like to tell you about the incident. You should listen actively and non-judgmentally. Reiterate that you are there to listen and support, and allow the survivor to dictate when and how much they wish to say.

Assure Your Friend That it is Not His or Her Fault

Self-blame is common among victims of sexual violence. It is important that, as their friend, you help the survivor understand that no matter what happened — it was not their fault.

Allow Your Friend to Control Next Steps

It is natural to want to try to fix the problem, but know that healing from this event will take a great deal of time and your friend must maintain the ability to choose how they wish to go about that healing process. You may provide advice, guidance, and information about their options for additional support, but allow your friend to decide if, when, and how they will pursue these resources. If your friend is hesitant to get help from any outside sources, even those you know are supportive and helpful, offer to go with her/him. Reassure your friend that he/she can speak confidentially with a counselor at The Wellness Center. As a reminder, if your friend would like to make a confidential disclosure, he/she should wait until he/she is speaking with a clinician. When making the appointment, simply indicate the matter is of an urgent personal or confidential nature, and no further information will be required.

Don't Forget to Support Yourself

Supporting a friend through a trauma can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience for those in the support role as well. Recognize this and don't hesitate to seek help and support for yourself when you need it. You cannot effectively support your friend without being mindful of your own health and wellbeing.