If a friend or someone you know is accused of sexual assault, you likely have questions and may be struggling to understand what has happened. You may be experiencing a range of emotions (helplessness, anger, confusion, etc.) and are unsure how to respond to your friend or to the situation. If your friend has told you that he/she has been accused of sexual assault, he/she is likely turning to you for help and support. Know that it is natural for you to feel conflicted regarding your response, but also know that simply providing information and emotional support in no way condones the alleged behavior, but represents an act of compassion and care for your friend. Here are some things you can do to support your friend.
There are individuals on campus who are available to talk with students who have been accused of sexual assault. These professionals can help that person understand what may happen next. Helping your friend access these resources is a step you can take to provide support in what may be a confusing and emotional time for both of you. Encourage your friend to speak with their Undergraduate Dean, a Counselor at Dick's House, and/or their family. If your friend has been charged by the College, encourage them to speak with someone from Judicial Affairs and/or to learn more about the College's Judicial process so they can feel better prepared for the hearing.
Recommend that your friend seek counseling to process the emotions that he/she may be experiencing. It may also be helpful for you to seek counseling to help you process any emotions and trauma you may be experiencing as a result of this situation. A counselor at CHD can help students process the experience, guide you or them in coping, help them consider options and decide what will be most beneficial to them in their situation. CHD can offer support and information and/or connect you or them with additional campus and community resources—their goal is to help students make their own informed, empowered decisions. Counseling records are confidential.
Your friend may not feel comfortable talking about the matter, but let them know that you will listen if they do decide to talk with you about it. If possible, provide an atmosphere where your friend can express honest feelings. Your friend may not feel that they have many people that they can talk with, so it is important to let them know whether or not, and how much you can support them. Again, this does not mean that you need to affirm or condone any particular behavior(s), but that they are not alone and you will provide a compassionate ear as they attempt to work through this difficult experience.
Accept your friend as a person, even if you don't agree with his or her behavior. Remember, being a friend does NOT mean:
Approving of all your friend's actions and/or choices. You can help your friend without making a judgment as to whether or not a sexual assault occurred. Determining if a crime or judicial violation took place is the responsibility of campus administrators and/or the legal system, not yours.
Don't share what your friend tells you with others, unless you are concerned for their safety. This could create additional difficulties for your friend and/or the reporting student. If you are concerned that your friend may hurt themselves or others, or that someone is planning to hurt them, please call Safety & Security 603-646-3333 immediately and/or the Counselor-on-Call.
Violence or retaliation is not the answer to helping your friend. Remember, harassing and threatening behaviors towards your friend, the reporting student or the reporting student's friends are not helpful. These behaviors could undermine any court or judicial proceeding taking place and could get you or your friend into an even worse situation. If your friend expresses an interest in contacting the reporting student "to explain his/her side, to talk about what happened, or to try to work things out," strongly discourage this behavior. Even if your friend has good intentions, the reporting student already feels violated and further contact from your friend or 3rd parties could be perceived as intimidating, harassing and threatening to the reporting student.
The information in this website can be of help in answering some of the questions you may have. If you are seeking additional information on sexual assault, please contact a Sexual Assault Awareness Program (SAAP) at 603-646-9430 [M-F 8:00am-5:00pm] or Blitz SAAP.
Supporting a friend through a trauma can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience for those in the support role as well. Recognize this and don't hesitate to seek help and support for yourself when you need it. Again, the Counselor's at Dick's House are available for you as well. You cannot effectively support your friend without being mindful of your own health and well-being.
Last Updated: 6/26/14