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Relationship Violence - How to Help
Helpful Things to Say
Listen. Often a person in crisis just needs someone to hear their story. You can show
you"ére really listening to your friend by nodding, looking your friend in the eye,
saying "uh-huh"?, etc.
Believe. One of the most important things you can do is to communicate that you believe
what your friend is telling you. Survivors often worry that they will not be believed
or have been told by the perpetrator that no one will believe them.
Help to clarify what you think your friend is saying. Listen carefully to your friend
and then tell them what you think they said about their feelings. Your friend may
be talking about her/his emotions in a way that seems jumbled. You can help by sorting
out and repeating back what was said. Say things like: "It sounds like"é"? or "What
I hear you saying is"é"?
Let your friend decide what they want to talk about. Don"ét push your friend to talk
about something if they are not comfortable. If you feel you need to ask questions
ask gently, so your friend doesn"ét feel that you"ére prying. Ask general questions,
e.g., "Do you want to talk about what happened?"? rather than, "How were you raped?"?
Avoid asking accusing questions. The perpetrator is to blame for what happened. You
may feel angry and frustrated about what happened, but don"ét take it out on your
friend. Don"ét ask questions about why your friend did (or didn"ét do) a certain thing.
Survivors do the best they can with confusing, terrifying, or life-threatening situations.
Don"ét make decisions for your friend. The experience of rape or sexual assault is
one of having complete control taken away. You can help your friend regain power over
her/his life by letting your friend make her/his own decisions about what to do next.
Help your friend get information on what all of the options are, but let her/him make
Show that you care. Remind your friend that you care, and that this crisis hasn"ét
changed that fact. You can show your affection by hugging (check your friend is okay
being hugged), telling your friend that you love her/him, or even just sitting quietly
together. You may not feel that you are doing much, but your presence can mean a great
Remind your friend to have self-compassion and self-care. Your friend has been through
a very difficult experience. Remind your friend to be good to herself/himself.
Take care of yourself. It can be very upsetting and traumatic when a friend is assaulted.
You may feel powerless, guilty, shocked, angry, or scared. These feelings are normal,
natural responses. Be sure to be kind to yourself and get help managing these emotions.
Information taken from Harvard University"és "How can I help my friend"? publication.
The Office of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention. 2007