Most sexual assault survivors turn to friends instead of law enforcement.
Law enforcement and other crime statistics may not capture the true prevalence of rape and sexual assault, because the majority of victims do not report their assault to law enforcement. College women are even less likely to report their sexual assault or rape to law enforcement than the general population of women in the same age group; whereas 80% of college student women victims did not report, 67% of non-student women did. The reasons for not reporting vary by individual, but often include fear of reprisal, believing the assault was a personal matter, and not believing that law would or could do anything to help. Conversely, most victims turn to their close friends and family for support, highlighting how important it is for all of us to be supportive and knowledgeable about the services available in our communities. Read more.
If you or someone you know is in danger or needs immediate help, call 911.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and are not in immediate danger, find confidential support and services on your campus.
If your friend or colleague has experienced sexual violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence or stalking, here are some ways you can be supportive:
- Listen. Offer support and compassion. Be patient and try to avoid interrupting them or making statements that may be judgmental.
- Share resources. Let them know institutional resources are available.
- Don’t ask for details about what happened or why it happened. Let survivors share what they are comfortable sharing. Avoid questions that suggest blame.
- Challenge statements of self-blame. The responsibility for the assault lies with the perpetrator(s), regardless of what the survivor did leading up to, during, or after what happened.
- Ask how you can help. Know that many survivors may not be able to tell you what they need. Check in again later, or suggest things that may be helpful such as offering to accompany them to the hospital, police station, or campus security, if the survivor wants your support.
- Respect the survivor’s privacy. Do not tell others about the survivor’s assault, or reveal any names or details, without the survivor’s permission. Be aware that if you share the survivor’s story with individuals named “responsible employees” by your institution, they will have to make a report to your institution’s Title IX coordinator.
- Support the survivor’s decisions. Allow the survivor to make their own decisions regarding reporting and seeking services. These are very personal decisions, and it is critical for a survivor to regain a sense of control and agency.
- Take care of yourself. Supporting a survivor can be a very emotional and challenging experience. Pay attention to your needs — this could mean setting boundaries, spending time on activities you enjoy, or talking to a friend or counselor if needed.
Additional information on supporting sexual assault survivors is available at:
- RAINN. How to Respond to a Survivor.
- Know Your IX. Supporting a Survivor: The Basics.
- No More. Responding to a Friend or Family Member.