Things to know when assisting a survivor of sexual assault:
- Do not use victim blaming statements. For example, "What did you expect when you went to their room?" or "You should have reported this to the police."
- Avoid asking "why" questions such as, "Why did you get so drunk?" or "Why did you go home with that person?" "Why" questions serve no purpose when assisting a survivor and may cause them to blame themselves for the assault.
- Let survivors make their own decisions on how they want to handle their assault. Survivors of sexual assault experienced power and control being taken away from them. Never tell them what they "should" do. You can provide options but the survivor should decide what is best for them.
- Not everyone will react to a sexual assault in the same manner. There is no "right way" to handle a sexual assault.
- Survivors will feel a variety of emotions during the healing process. Let the person express her/his feelings.
- Focus on listening instead of offering advice or asking questions.
- Let them know how much support you can give. Tell the person your limits about how much time and energy you can give rather than making unrealistic promises.
Prevention, Advocacy, and Wellness Services (PAWS) provides survivors (and individuals assisting survivors) with emotional support, someone to talk to, and referrals for medical and legal options; in a setting that is non-judgmental. PAWS and the Counseling Center are free and confidential. If you are assisting survivor and need help please contact PAWS; assisting someone who is coping with the aftermath of sexual assault can be a very difficult and confusing process.
Prevention, Advocacy, and Wellness Services (PAWS)