For Friends and Family Members

In the event that someone tells you that they* have experienced rape, sexual assault or another form of sexualized violence, it is important to remember that you can be a link in the healing process and an effective ally to the survivor.

  • You are encouraged to contact the North Coast Rape Crisis Team at (707) 445-2881. The NCRCT welcomes survivors and friends to contact them for free advice and support. NCRCT can provide a trained advocate for immediate in-person support if the survivor wants to report the rape to law enforcement or chooses to seek medical attention. HSU's Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) is also available 24 hours a day at (707) 826-3236
  • Ask what you can do to help. Let your friend know that you are willing to listen in a non-judgmental way. Instead of assuming that you know what your friend or family member needs, make sure you check in frequently to ensure you are not crossing boundaries or providing assistance that isn’t helpful.
  • Make sure to take care of yourself. There are limits to how much support you can provide and there will be feelings you might need to express that won’t necessarily be helpful to your friend’s healing process. Seeing a counselor or confiding in a trusted friend yourself can be beneficial.
  • Give adequate space to your friend. It’s important to respect the time and space (may it be days or weeks) that your friend asks to have for him or herself. Healing from sexualized violence can largely be a process about establishing autonomy in one’s own life as much as it can be about receiving the support of family and friends.
  • Keep the safety of your friend in mind. Consider how to support your friend or family member to reduce their risk of being attacked. This might mean helping to coordinate transportation, networks of care, and/or communicating telephone availability if they need help.
  • Don't promise to support your friend if you can't follow through.

If a friend or family member who has been sexually assaulted asks for your help, you can provide support in many ways. You can help by listening in a non-judgmental way. Other support may include helping the survivor to get medical and therapeutic resources upon request, or offering to accompany your friend or family member to the hospital or police station if they are interested in receiving medical care or are considering filing a report with law enforcement.

It is important to remember to listen for cues of when your help will be appreciated and when silence and space would be more helpful than anything else. Even as a close friend or confidante, it’s important to remember that you can’t do everything with or for someone else who is healing from the trauma of sexualized violence. Healing from sexualized violence is sometimes an individual process, parts of which might require privacy and autonomy.

*The pronouns "they", "them" and "their" are often used here to replace the third-person singular in part to improve readability, and also as part of a small effort to disrupt the gender binary.