How to Support Your Friend

When a friend is struggling, our first instinct is to help in any way we can. In this section, please find guidelines for what you can say and do in order to best help your friend through this difficult time.

 
What to Say
  • Be comforting and listen respectfully.

  • Ask your friend what they need from you; let them be the one to decide how involved they want you to be.

  • Let them know you are glad they felt comfortable sharing this information with you; speaking out can be very difficult, and it is important to understand that their trust in you is something you should value.

  • “You are not alone.” “I support you.” “This is not your fault.”

What to Do
  • Offer support if your friend chooses to report to the University and/or law enforcement. This may include accompanying them to the initial report, being with them during meetings, or checking in with them about how the process is going.

  • Educate yourself on the various resources available through the University and within Charlottesville (found here for students and here for employees) and provide these resources to your friend.

  • Respect that your friend may need time alone.

  • Respect privacy and confidentiality. Your friend came to you for a reason and you should not share this information with anyone else without your friend’s explicit permission.

    • However, if you are worried about anyone’s safety (yours, your friend’s, or someone else’s) as a result of what you know, please reach out to one of the many Confidential or Anonymous resources available to you.

Take Care of Yourself
  • Many of the resources available to those involved are available to you as well. Resources for students can be found here and resources for employees can be found here.

  • Talking about and dealing with events like these can be traumatic. In order to best help your friend you need to ensure that you are also caring for yourself, including seeking counseling and advice from trusted Confidential resources if you wish.

What Not to Do
  • Don’t judge what happened; it is not your job to come to a conclusion on the situation.

  • If your friend reports experiencing treatment that violates the University’s Policy, don’t place blame on them or imply that they made a mistake.

    • This means not saying things like “It’s your fault you were drinking”, and “If you weren’t wearing that this wouldn’t have happened”, or “You should have fought back”, or anything else that may make them feel guilty or deter them from reporting because they fear they won’t be listened to.

  • Don’t say things like “everything will be okay” or “it could have been worse”

    • You don’t know what “okay” is and pointing out that something worse could have happened minimizes your friend’s reaction and undervalues their feelings.