Supporting friends and partners: How to help
Seeing a friend or partner who is struggling or in pain always hurts. Because sexual and gender-based misconduct are interpersonal crimes which often involve betrayal by known others, being there for your friend or partner after they have been victimized is even more crucial. Listening, believing and being there don’t always feel like enough, because they can’t change what has happened, but they are actually incredibly important. Your help and support will make a significant positive difference in your friend or partner’s recovery.
The following guidelines may be helpful as you help your friend or partner navigate a challenging time.
- First, pay attention to the person’s immediate physical needs. If you are worried that your friend is in physical danger or this is a medical emergency,
call Campus Safety (518-580-5566) or 911 immediately to respond to the situation and/or
provide transportation to the hospital. Please know that whenever Campus Safety is
informed about an incident of sexual or gender-based misconduct, they are obligated
to investigate to insure the victim’s safety and the safety of the larger campus community.
- Listen with trust and empathy. Ask how you can be helpful. Take time to listen carefully and pay attention to body
language. "Why" questions, such as “Why didn't you leave?” or “Why were you there?”
are not helpful.
- Be aware of resources available. Help your friend or partner access resources. Provide online information, including
this website. Offer to walk with the person to get help.
- Let them make the decisions in the moment and going forward. Present options and resources for your friend or partner and remember that they need
to choose for themselves how to cope with the situation. Every person and every situation
is different and there is no “right” way to react to sexual or gender based misconduct.
- Don’t define the experience for the other person. Let your friend or partner define the experience themselves. Know that their definition
of the experience(s) may change over time. Do not pressure them to use specific terms
or definitions that you may think are most accurate.
- Assure your friend that this is not their fault. Sexual and gender-based misconduct is never the fault of the survivor.
- Be sensitive about how much you share with your friend or partner about how their situation is
impacting you. Focus on their needs first and make sure you get help and support for yourself so
you can continue to help them.
- Care for yourself. "Secondary victimization" is a real phenomenon, with possible effects including
shock, rage, fear and a sense of helplessness. Seek support from someone you trust,
including any of the resources available on this website.