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 and are unsure how to respond to your friend or the situation. Chances are if your friend has told you they have been accused of a sexual assault, they may be turning to you for help and support.
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 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.
- 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.
- Get educated on the issue of sexual assault. The information in this website can be of help in answering some of the questions you may have. If you are seeking additional information on sexual assault, consider contacting the Sindecuse Office of Sexual Assault Prevention or attending one of many presentations put on by FIRE! Sexual Assault Peer Educators.
- Be available to listen. He or she may not feel comfortable talking about the matter, but let your friend know you will listen.
- Avoid judging.
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 campus administrators or the legal system.
- 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.
An important note:
When close friends or loved ones are involved in emotionally difficult situations, it often hard to separate one’s self from those situations. Talking to someone about your experiences may help you to deal with this particular situation. If you are in need of counseling, the Counseling Center is available to you free of charge at (269) 387-1850
Information on How to Help My Friend adapted from the College of William & Mary Sexual Assault Resources and Education Web site, 2007.