Relationship and Sexual ViolenceHelpHow to Help a Friend
Seventy percent of student survivors of sexual assault tell a friend or someone else they know that they were assaulted. Active support of a friend is a primary factor that distinguishes those who report from those who do not.
If your friend has been sexually assaulted, s/he may experience:
- Mood swings
- Inability to concentrate or relax
- Disturbances in eating or sleeping habits
- Resurfacing memories of past abuse
For some, the emotional impact of sexual assault can be immediate and short term. For others the effects can be long lasting. Your friend may find it helpful to talk to a counselor trained to understand and assist victims of sexual assault.
What you can do:
People rarely lie about being sexually assaulted. Be sure your friend knows how much you support him/her.
Let the survivor control the situation.
Let your friend determine the pace of healing. Help your friend understand the options available, and encourage your friend to keep his/her options open. Most important, allow your friend to make his/her own decisions.
Assure your friend it was not his/her fault.
No one asks to be sexually assaulted. Avoid blaming questions and judgmental statements such as, ”Why didn’t you scream?” or ”If I ever get my hands on the creep. . .” Do not search for things your friend should have done.
Give your full attention.
A friend may confide in you 10 minutes or 10 years after the assault. It does not matter so much what you say but how well you listen. Remember that your friend’s sense of trust has been violated, so one of the most important things you can do is respect his/her need for confidentiality.
Trust your instincts.
If the assault happened recently, encourage your friend to get medical attention as soon as possible.
Do not be afraid to ask for outside help.
Your friend may need medical attention or counseling. Offer to help your friend through these processes.
Your friend can get medical attention from a private doctor, a clinic, or a hospital emergency room. Only the emergency room can collect evidence that can be used in a criminal trial. It is the patient's legal right to decide to report. Bringing a friend or advocate to the ER can be very helpful.
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Sexual Violence Response provides comprehensive and integrated education, support and advocacy about sexual and relationship violence. The program supports survivors and fosters individual and collective action to end sexual and relationship violence. For more information go to Sexual Violence Response.
The Barnard Columbia Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center provides peer counseling and advocacy services for survivors and co-survivors of sexual and relationship violence. For more information go to the Barnard Columbia Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center.
- Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct (212) 854-1717
- Barnard Health Services (212) 854-2091
- Barnard clinician-on-call (866) 966-7788
- Barnard Furman Counseling Services (212) 854-2092
- Barnard Public Safety (212) 854-3362
- Counseling and Psychological Services (212) 854-2468
- Medical Services (212) 854-7426
- Columbia University clinician-on-call for after-hours health concerns (212) 854-9797
- Columbia University Public Safety (212) 854-2796
- Nightline (10pm-3am) (212) 854-7777
- Morningside Campus University Ombuds Office (212) 854-1234
- Columbia University Medical Center Campus (212) 305-3400
- Columbia University Medical Center for Student Wellness (212) 304-5564
- Columbia University Medical Center Mental Health Services (212) 795-4181
- Columbia University Medical Center clinician-on-call (212) 305-5549
- Columbia University Medical Center Campus Public Safety x99 or 305-8100
- Columbia University Medical Center Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (212) 854-5511
- Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 621-HOPE*
- NYC Dept. of Mental Health and Mental Hygiene (1800-LIFENET)*
- NYC Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (212) 714-1141*
- Police Sex Crimes Unit (212) 267-RAPE*
- St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Crime Victim Treatment Center (212) 523-4728
- Safe Horizon (Victim’s Services) (212) 577-7777
- Connect: Safe Families Peaceful Communities
- Family Violence Prevention Fund
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or (800)787-3224 (TTY)