Helping A Friend or Co-Worker


"When one person helps another it can be such a joyful profoundly satisfying cooperative experience.  I wish to distinguish such a positive heaping experience from the unpleasant and destructive experiences which I call 'rescues'." - Claude Steiner

Helping a friend or co-worker who has experienced sexual assault or other abuse can be very difficult.  Often, our first reaction to friends in need is to try to solve all their problems and rescue them from the pain of the assault.  Unfortunately, this kind of rescuing takes away the power of the survivor to help her or himself and gain control, and makes the survivor feel even more helpless.  Here are some suggestions on how to help a friend or co-worker in need without further victimization:

  • Believe what a person tells you about her or his sexual assault or abuse.  Listen, do not judge.
  • Offer to assist the person in getting to a safe place, both physically and emotionally.
  • Reinforce that the assault was not their fault.  Many victims of sexual assault blame themselves.  Reassure them that they are not to blame.  The assailant is completely responsible for the assault.
  • Be patient and understanding.  Survivors have their own timetable for recovery.
  • Accept their choice of solution to the assault - even if you disagree with what they have chosen to do.  It is more important that they feel empowered to make choices and take back control than it is for you to impose what you think is the "right" decision.
  • Let the person know that there are resources to help them
  • Take care of yourself.  If you, as the helper, need someone to talk to, please call a campus or community resource.  Dealing with the sexual assault of a friend can be hard on your health too.

Source:  Adapted from Crime and Sexual Assault Services (CASAS) website, Student Affairs, WWU

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Page Updated 06.03.2013