Support and Care for a Friend

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Helping Someone Who Has Experienced Sexual Misconduct

As a member of the Wentworth community , you maybe the first to notice that someone you care about begins to act in a different way. NEVER be afraid to ask “Are you okay?” You may be the first person to respond to someone, this might be the question that helps begin recovery. First and foremost, obtain immediate help from Wentworth Public Safety if the survivor is injured or unsafe in any way.

Helpful Strategies for Talking with a Survivor

  • Believe them. Believing someone when the person tells you that they have been sexually assaulted is the most important thing you can do. Your immediate reaction can have a powerful impact on their healing, especially if you happen to be the first person the survivor has disclosed to. 
  • Listen. Use active listening skills and allow the survivor tell as much or as little of their story as they feel comfortable with. It is not up to you to “figure out what happened” or even understand all of the circumstances or details of the incident. 
  • Assure them that they are not to blame for the incident in any way. Survivors of sexual misconduct may blame themselves for what has happened. It is important to assure survivors that no matter what happened - it was not their fault.
  • Respect the survivor’s need for privacy. Be sure to tell the survivor before they start sharing if you have a College role that prevents you from keeping information confidential. Tell the person that you want to support them, and this support may involve sharing this information with people who can help. Please note, the only truly confidential resources on campus are the counselors at the Center for Wellness (617-989-4390).
  • Assure them they are not alone. Survivors of sexual misconduct may feel isolated, scared, and powerless. Tell the survivor that you are there for them; then follow through by being there to listen and support.
  • Use all available resources. Assist the survivor to get connected to campus resources or other professionals who can help. Say “There are people on campus who are valuable resources for incidents like this, who know what to do and who can be trusted.”
  • Take Care of Yourself. Even those with the best intentions can become over-involved with the survivor’s recovery, possibly hurting both of you. Seek advice if you have any concerns about how to help. Staff in the Center for Wellness (617-989-4390) can help you.

Things to Avoid When Helping a Survivor

  • We often want to respond to violence with aggressive action. You may have the urge to confront the person responsible for the incident.  Do not take matters into your own hands.
  • Don’t ask the survivor to tell every detail about the assault . Survivors often experience additional trauma when asked to repeat their story.
  • Don’t say that you know how they feel .
  • Don’t evaluate their behavior or feelings by saying things like “You shouldn't feel...", "You ought to feel...", or "you're wrong.”
  • Don’t ridicule or shame by saying “Why didn't you fight?” or “This wouldn't have happened if you…”
  • Don’t give unwanted advice by saying “I would have…”
  • Don’t interpret, analyze, diagnose by saying “You're doing that now because...”
  • Don’t order or threaten by saying “You have to...”
  • Don’t minimize the person's experience by saying “I'm sure you'll be fine, it will all work out.”
  • Don’t distract or divert the conversation by saying “It isn't that bad, let's talk about something else.”
  • Don’t discourage the survivor from going to the police if they choose to report the assault.

**Portions adapted from The College of William and Mary. Sexual Assault Resources and Education.