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Ohio University >> Survivor Advocacy >> Help >> Help for a friend 

How to Help Your Friend, Family, or Loved One

Sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking can be difficult for everyone close to the survivor. You may not know what to do or what to think. You may feel powerless in the situation; you may want to help but do not know how. In addition, some people may be confused by common misconceptions about sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking.

 

First and foremost, it is important to “be there” for your loved one. In order to do this, you may want to educate yourself on sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking information.

 

How to Help a Friend

 

1.  Listen carefully and show that you care. Some survivors may want to talk right away and others may not. Do not feel insulted or offended if your loved one does not want to talk right away. Allow your loved one time until he/she is ready to talk.

 

2.  Believe your loved one. It took him/her a lot of courage to talk about this. A major reason that many survivors do not report the crime or talk about it is out of fear that he/she will not be believed. If your loved one came to you about something as private as sexual violence, relationship violence, or stalking, it means that he/she trusts you.  

 

3.  Do not ask the survivor to provide explanations for how the assault occurred. Do not investigate or question the survivor’s actions. If you do ask questions, make sure that you do not sound skeptical or judgmental. Allow your loved one to openly and freely talk about his/her feelings, fears, and concerns without pressing for details.

 

4.  Become informed. Educate yourself on sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking issues. Do not believe common rape, relationship violence, and stalking myths. The more that you know about these issues, the more that you can understand and support your loved one.

 

5.  Do encourage the survivor to talk to someone trained to help people deal with the ordeal of sexual assault.

 

6.  Allow him/her to make choices. Sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking take power and control away from the survivor of these issues. Your loved one should have the power and control over his/her own actions and responses to this experience. Do not tell him or her what to do. More than anything else, you can help by accepting and supporting the decision when it is finally made.

 

7.  Take care of yourself. Understand that you will have to deal with your own feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness. It is important to keep these feelings from being directed at the person you want to help through this crisis.

 

8.  If you are not sure what the survivor needs, ask before you reach out.

 

*Adapted from the “Handbook for Victims of Sexual Assault,” created by the Athens County Victim Assistance Program

 

Parents

 

1. Talk to your child about consent. Make sure that they know that if someone is incapacitated, (unable to walk, blacked-out, having trouble speaking, vomiting, passed out, etc.) it is impossible for that person to give consent. Any sexual activity without consent is illegal. It is punishable by the state of Ohio and it is punishable by Ohio University.

 

2. Educate yourself about sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking on college campuses. Share information with your child about these issues. Recognize that the majority of survivors know their perpetrators.

 

3. Be aware of the campus resources for survivors of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking. Share these resources with your child.

 

4. Actively tell your child that there is never an excuse for hurting or violating another person. Emphasize that rape and abuse is never the survivor’s fault, no matter the circumstances.

 

5. Talk about these issues with your child. Sexual assault, domestic/relationship violence, and stalking are all serious issues that may be uncomfortable to talk about. However, these issues are common and it is important to recognize that this can happen to anyone. Many people believe common misconceptions about rape, relationship violence, and stalking. As a result of exposure to misinformation, survivors may be less likely to report the crime and perpetrators may be more likely to commit the crime.

 

 

Frequent Feelings for Survivors' Loved Ones

  • Frustration
  • Fear
  • Lack of power or control
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Anger


Additional Information

"This project was supported by Grant No. 2009-WA-AX-0003 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/ exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women."