How to Help a Friend

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct

It's important to provide support to a friend who shares an experience of sexual misconduct. This may facilitate survivor healing, empower survivors to report their experience or help survivors feel comfortable moving forward with disciplinary procedures against their perpetrator (if they choose to do so).

What to Do

  • Listen without judgment or interruptions. Allow the survivor to speak until they are finished.
  • Thank the survivor for trusting you with their story and assure them that you are here for them.
  • Provide emotional support to the survivor (remind them that they are valued).
  • Express non-blame (assure the survivor that this experience was not their fault).
  • Provide validation and belief (demonstrate that you believe their experience occurred the way they have presented it and assure them that you do not doubt their story).
  • Provide tangible support (offer to help the survivor find counseling services, facilitate the reporting process with the University, locate alternative housing if they are currently living in close proximity to their perpetrator, help the survivor access resources such as a local sexual assault center, support group or off-campus therapist).

Do Say

  • "Thank you for sharing your story with me. I am honored that you would trust me with this, and I am grateful for the opportunity to support you."
  • "I believe you. I believe that your experience happened as you say it did."
  • "I support you and whatever decisions you make."
  • "Would you like a hug? Would you like me to hold your hand?"
  • "This was not your fault. You did nothing to deserve what happened to you."
  • "What do you need from me? What can I do to best support you right now?"
  • "Are you interested in learning about resources that can help you through this process?"
  • "Are you interested in reporting to police or law enforcement?"

What to Avoid Doing

  • Blame the survivor or imply that the survivor was in any way responsible for their experience.
  • Ask the survivor unnecessary questions or for more details than they have given you. If you are a mandated reporter, the survivor will likely be required to recount their experience, which can be re-traumatizing and stressful. Do not make them do so more than is absolutely necessary for the sake of reporting procedures.
  • Treat the survivor differently (as if they are damaged/broken) or act as though they are unable to take care of themselves.
  • Respond in an overly emotional, angry or upset way – the survivor is already coping with their own hurt and trauma and should not be required to comfort another person while they process their experience, disclose and heal.
  • Assume the survivor will be visibly hurt, upset or reacting to their experience. It is possible that the survivor will appear to be unemotional, display a flat affect or be calm during their disclosure. This does not discount the severity of their experience.
  • Distract the survivor or attempt to get them to talk about something else – this may send the message that you do not want to listen to their story, are not taking their pain seriously or do not care about their experience.
  • Try to take control of their decision-making process. The survivor is free to make their own choices regarding whether to tell family or friends, confront the perpetrator, seek additional counseling or support, or formally press charges.

Do Not Say

  • "What were you wearing?"
  • "Were you drinking before this happened?"
  • "Did you have a sexual history with this person?"
  • "Why didn’t you just leave? Why didn’t you fight back?"
  • "You have to report this right away."
  • "You have to press charges."
  • "I am so furious at [perpetrator]."
  • "I am so devastated."
  • “Let’s talk about something else, it seems like this is upsetting you."