What you can say
When someone shares that he or she has been sexually assaulted, the person will likely be upset and traumatized and will likely still be trying to process what has happened. If the person confides in you about a sexual assault, offer comfort and support. Some things you can say:
- "I believe you. You're not alone."
- "I'm sorry this happened to you."
- "What can I do to help you?"
- "Do you want to talk about it?"
- "How are you feeling?"
- "Do you want to go to the hospital? Do you want me to go with you?"
- "Do you want me to call anyone for you?"
Be a good listener
Be sure you just listen if they talk about the sexual assault, and be careful if you ask any questions about what happened. Let the survivor lead the conversation. Do not say things that could be misconstrued as blaming or shaming, such as asking what the person was wearing, if he/she had been drinking or if the person was out alone late at night. After comforting the person and letting them know you support them, let him/her know there are resources available at the university to help him/her.
Understand that the survivor may not even realize they've been sexually assaulted. Sexual assault includes any form of sexual contact that occurs without consent and/or through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, incapacitation or coercion. Sometimes an individual may have been intoxicated during a sexual assault and doesn't have a clear memory about what occurred. Survivors sometimes may not consider a coerced or forced sexual encounter with an acquaintance sexual assault because they know the person. You can learn more about consent and other definitions related to sexual assault.
We all must look out for our friends and fellow Carolina community members. When a situation arises that could cause harm or negatively impact someone's life, take action to make a very real difference in that person's life. Learn what it means to be an active bystander.