Helping a Friend

The Immediate Need of "Safety"

The need for feeling "safe" is critical for a student who has been traumatized.

  • Physical: Is there somewhere safe and private your friend can go?

  • Emotional: Does your friend need to speak confidentially with a counselor or pastoral minister? 

  • Medical: Does your friend need medical attention?

What to Say

  • “Would you like me to help you talk to someone who is a Confidential Resource?” 

  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

  • “Thank you for telling me.”

  • “What kind of help do you need?” 

  • “When you’re ready, there is help available.”

Dos And Don’ts

  • DO ask the student for permission before reporting the incident or discussing details with others.

  • DO believe the student. The psychological damages of not being believed can be as damaging as the incident itself.

  • DO be clear that the incident was not the student’s fault.

  • DO offer non-judgmental support.

  • DO express your compassion.

  • DO encourage the student to seek professional help.

  • DO follow up with the student and encourage them to use their resources.

  • DO NOT confront the person who is accused of creating the harm.

  • DO NOT pass judgment.

  • DO NOT question or judge what the student had to do to survive.

  • DO NOT make promises that you cannot keep.

  • DO NOT try to resolve the situation. Before you share information with others, ask for the student's permission first.

Identifying the Signs

Individuals who have been affected by forms of harassment, discrimination, and interpersonal violence may experience the following:

  • Physical: trouble sleeping, nightmares, headaches, loss of appetite, overeating, stomach problems, muscle tension

  • Emotional: denial, fear, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, embarrassment, crying spells, flashbacks, irritability, depression, suicidal thoughts

  • Social: fear of being in public, withdrawing from friends, difficulty trusting others, trouble with physical intimacy in relationships

  • Academic: lack of concentration, impaired memory, missing classes, lack of motivation