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Sexual Assault and Violence Education

Help a Friend

For immediate help, contact University Police at (757) 594–7777

File a Title IX and EO Community Report

If someone you know has been sexually assaulted or is in an abusive relationship, please use the following information and support guidelines. The Office of Counseling Services, (757) 594–7047, is available to consult and assist if needed.

Students can be emotionally, physically or sexually abused by their intimate partners. Violence and abuse in relationships usually continues and often gets worse over time if no action is taken to stop it. You can help by being honest about your concerns.

While the suggestions listed below emphasize a friendship, these guidelines can be used if you are a parent, faculty or staff member.

Let your friend know right away that you care and want to help

Be a good listener

Let your friend decide what they want to share about the incident and when. Don’t press for details or ask many questions. Let them choose how much to share and when.

Believe your friend

It takes courage to talk about a sexual assault with other people. Many survivors remain silent because they feel ashamed; they fear that they will be disbelieved or blamed if they tell other people what happened to them.

Don’t blame the victim

Encourage your friend to make her or his own decisions and choices

This is one way for a sexual assault survivor to regain a sense of personal power and control. Do what you can to assist your friend in getting information about resources to help make informed decisions.

Guide your friend to campus and community resources

  • Encourage your friend to get medical care. Even if the assault happened a while ago and even if your friend does not appear to have any physical injuries, the sooner the better.
  • Encourage your friend to talk with a counselor on campus or at a local treatment center. If your friend is not ready to talk to a counselor in person, encourage your friend to call a rape hotline and talk with a counselor on the phone.
  • If your friend wants to report the crime, encourage her or him to contact the police as soon as possible. Police officers can help survivors get medical care and resolve concerns about their safety.

Offer to accompany your friend to get help

Such as medical care, an evidentiary examination, counseling or other services. Offer to be with your friend throughout the entire process.

Understand what your friend is going through

  • Remember that your friend has been through a traumatic experience that is emotionally painful. Your friend will likely act differently after the assault, and that is OK. It may be hard to watch some of your friend’s reactions, but being there for them, even as a silent support person, can help a lot.
  • Be patient and understanding. The trauma of sexual assault does not go away quickly, and it may take a while for your friend to recover. It is important to know that the symptoms may last a long time, and while you may want your old friend back, it will take more than a couple of weeks.

Respect your friend’s privacy and confidentiality

Don’t disclose to other people what the survivor tells you.

Focus on his or her strengths

Give your friend emotional support and remind them that they have strength. Both things that they are good at, and the ability to persevere. Support them in rediscovering their strength.

If your friend decides to end the relationship

Help your friend make a safety plan. Domestic violence programs can help your friend look at options and make a plan to be as safe as possible. Survivors of dating violence may face greater risk when they try to end the abusive relationship.

Find your own support

You cannot support someone else if you are not taking care of yourself. Seek professional counseling if needed.


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