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Helping a Friend

Perpetrators violate survivors at a very deep and personal level during an act of interpersonal violence and abuse. Oftentimes, survivors must then come to terms with their own vulnerability and begin to establish a new sense of normalcy. As a friend, you might notice a survivor experiencing a wide range of emotional, physical, and behavioral reactions. While there is no “typical” response, some reactions may include: anger, anxiety, depression, fear, self-blame, numbness, increased vigilance, low self-esteem, appetite changes, suicidal thoughts, withdrawn social behaviors, lack of trust, and/or increased alcohol or drug consumption.

If you notice any of these behaviors, or hear that your friend has experienced an act of interpersonal violence, you have the opportunity to be a key player in your friend’s healing process.

Supportive Acts

  • Believe your friend.
  • Listen to your friend. Let your friend know that you are available to listen when they are ready to talk. Use active listening skills to let your friend tell the story in their own way at a comfortable pace. Give your friend your patience and undivided attention. 
  • Be non-judgmental and supportive. Make sure your friend knows how much you support them.
  • Assure your friend that the act of interpersonal violence was not their fault. Your friend is not to blame for what happened to them.
  • Offer options. Help your friend understand what options are available to them, and encourage them speak with a trained professional. Offer to accompany your friend or support/help through the process. 
  • Respect your friend’s right to make their own choices.
  • Get your friend connected to resources that will be able to help them.

Self-Care

It is natural that you want the best for your friend. In your concern, remember to take care of yourself, too. Providing support for a survivor is important work. If that support extends over a prolonged period of time or is particularly intense, you may find it difficult to provide high-level care that matches your desire to help. Be sure to pay attention to your own emotional cues, engage in activities that make you feel good (i.e. writing, exercising, socializing with friends, enjoying a hobby), and seek support to help you and your friend. Remember that you do not have to support them alone. Co-survivors and concerned friends may access SHARE resources at any time.

 (Adapted from Dartmouth College and Columbia University)

Princeton University

217 McCosh Health Center
Washington Road, Princeton, NJ 08544
609-258-3310
share@princeton.edu