How to Help a Friend

You are not alone. Care, support and information are available.

If the Assault Has Just Occurred:

• Make sure you and your friend are in a safe location.
• Offer to stay with your friend or to call another caring friend to stay with him/her. In order to preserve evidence, remind your friend not to wash, eat, drink, douche, clean, use the bathroom (if possible), or change clothes. If your friend does change clothes, be sure to save what s/he was wearing, ideally in a brown paper bag.
• Suggest medical treatment at Women + Infants Hospital, where they have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners on call. All local hospitals can provide support. We recommend women go to Women + Infants Hospital and men and those who identify as transgender go to Rhode Island Hospital.
• For confidential support and guidance, encourage your friend to call the RISD’s Counseling and Psychological Services at 401-454-6637 during business hours. After hours, a 24/7 Counselor-On-Call can be reached by calling Public Safety 401-454-6666; the local crisis center, Day One, also has a hotline 1-800-494-8100;
• Suggest contacting RISD Public Safety and/or Providence Police. Remember, it is your friend’s decision whether to report the assault or not. (Your friend’s identity will be protected to the maximum extent allowed by law and/or college policy.)

How to Help Anytime:

• Make sure you and your friend are in a safe location.
• Believe your friend. Remember that your friend’s behavior did not cause them to be assaulted. This is not the time to second-guess anything they may be feeling or describing.
• Listen non-judgmentally and validate your friend’s distress.
• Don’t ask your friend to tell you more than they want.
• Silence is acceptable – your friend may not want to talk but may simply not want to be alone. Be there for them.
• Ask permission before touching or hugging.
• Don’t try to solve all the problems – your friend has had control taken away; try to avoid doing that again.

Allow your friend the freedom to choose when, where, and how to talk about the assault. Avoid blaming questions or statements, such as “Why did you go there?”, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”, “That wasn’t a good idea.”

Remind your friend of the many options available regarding medical care, counseling, and reporting. Remember, you can encourage (but not make) your friend report the assault or seek medical care. Offer to go with your friend if/when they decide to report.

Let your friend know that professional help is available through the Women + Infants Hospital Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program (medical care and/or forensic evidence collection), the RISD Counseling + Psychological Services, RISD Public Safety, The Title IX Coordinators, any member of Residence Life, and Day One, a local rape crisis center.

If you’re feeling angry, helpless, confused or hurt, get help for yourself at RISD Counseling + Psychological Services.