What to Say to a Friend Who Was Sexually Assaulted

Navigating a conversation with a friend who has been sexually assaulted can be tricky; you want to help them, but you’re worried about saying the wrong thing. It’s okay to not know exactly what to say, but there are definitely some things that you should try to avoid. 

Instead of “What were you doing/wearing/drinking?” try “This wasn’t your fault.”

Questioning a survivor’s story is a form of victim blaming — if your friend tells you they were sexually assaulted, believe them. If they come to talk to you, they are looking for support, not blame, so make sure they know that they are in no way at fault for what happened.

Instead of “Did you report it?” try “Thank you for telling me.”

Choosing to report a sexual assault is an intensely personal decision that isn’t taken lightly by survivors. Those that choose to report are often met with doubt and stigmatization, which can prevent them from doing so. Thank your friend for opening up to you, and tell them that you’ll be there for them whether or not they decide to report.  

Instead of “I can’t believe that ____ would do that,” try “I’m sorry that this happened to you.”

8 out of 10 sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known by the victim. It can come as a shock that your friend was assaulted by someone you know, but instead of expressing doubt, tell your friend that you believe them.

Instead of “You should try and move on from it,” try “You can always talk to me.”

Coming to terms with sexual assault is a process that can take months or even years. Let them know that you’re always available to talk to. If they are having an especially difficult time, you can gently suggest that they talk to a therapist.

Don’t shy away from a conversation if you’re scared of saying the wrong thing. If a friend opens up to you about their experience, it’s likely because they trust you enough to do so and are looking for support. If you’re unsure of what to do or say, ask them! And no matter what, make sure they know that you will always be there for them.