How do you help a friend?
If someone you know shows signs that they are experiencing, or have been a victim of, harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, there are ways you can help:
- First of all, believe them! Don’t immediately question or dismiss their experience.
- Listen to your friend. Keep questions to a minimum and ask how you can help.
- Assure them that it is not their fault that this has happened.
- Tell them that help is available! Share the resources on our Get Help page, and let them know that you are here to support them in whatever choices they make.
If you believe that someone you know may be experiencing sexual violence of some kind, use your voice to let them know you care about their well-being, and that you can help. Encourage this person to seek help. Getting help promptly can alleviate crisis and protect the health and well-being of your friend.
Below are a few examples of what your friend may be feeling. If someone is experiencing other feelings, they still may have experienced some form of sexual violence.
- Shock, disbelief, numbness, withdrawal
- Preoccupation with thoughts and feelings about the assault
- Unwanted memories, flashblacks, and/or nightmares
- Intense anger, fear, anxiety, depression
- Physical symptoms: sleep disturbance, headaches, stomach aches
- Inability to concentrate, lower grades
- Loss of focus on academics
- Loss of interest in sex
- Fears about safety
- Feelings of guilt and shame
Bystanders, the largest group involved in violence, who greatly outnumber both perpetrators and victims have the power to stop abuse and to get help for people who have been victimized. Active bystanders are people who are aware of an abusive situation, and choose to speak up and say or do something without putting their own safety at risk.
The power to stop sexual violence is not limited to eyewitness heroics or endangering your own safety. Things you can do before or after an instance of violence will help STOP ABUSE at Virginia Tech:
- Call 911 if there is immediate danger to you or someone else.
- Speak up if someone says or does something indicating intent to commit sexual violence. Like stopping a friend from driving drunk, or stopping a friend or teammate from inappropriate actions, your intervening can help protect more than one person.
- Respect your fellow Hokies. Say something to protest offensive or derogatory remarks, including sexist or racist jokes. Always ask for partner consent in intimate situations. If you sense trouble, ask the affected person if help is needed.
- For more tips on intervening in a potential sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking situation:
- Apply to be a SAVES peer educator
Affiliated with the Women’s center at Virginia Tech, Sexual Assault and Violence Education by Students (SAVES) peer educators facilitate presentations, conduct programs, and provide outreach to the Virginia Tech community about sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking prevention. From facilitating presentations to residence halls and student organizations to planning events like Downtown Initiatives and The Red Flag Campaign, SAVES strives to make a positive difference in the Virginia Tech community.
- To learn more about SAVES, contact Katie Mey, Gender Based Violence Coordinator, at 540-231-7806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Volunteer at Women’s Resource Center (WRC) of the New River Valley
Located in Radford, VA, the WRC is a non-profit, human service agency who provides programs and services to adult and child victims of domestic and sexual violence. Volunteers assist WRC staff in providing shelter services and maintaining their Crisis Hotline. Other areas of special interest may be working with children, acting as advance volunteers and providing emergency advocacy services, or providing assistance on one-time projects such as decorating a transitional apartment or organizing holiday parties.
- For more information contact the WRC at email@example.com, or call 540-639-1123.
- Become involved in the Red Flag Campaign
A statewide public awareness effort aimed at stopping relationship violence on college campuses in Virginia, the Red Flag Campaign (RFC) encourages us all to speak up when we see red flags (or warning signs) for potential abusive or unhealthy behaviors in our friends’ relationships. The campaign was created by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and is being used to prevent relationship violence in 49 states.
- For more information about how you can become involved go to the Women’s Center Program/RFC.
- Become a Virginia Tech’s Mentors in Violence Prevention Program (MVP) Facilitator
Mentors in Violence Prevention program is designed to educate, inspire, and empower men and women in selfunderstanding, integrity, and courageous leadership to prevent, interrupt, and respond to sexist abuse in order to create a civil and just community. The program is coordinated by the Women’s Center and is affiliated with MVP National, a project of the National Consortium of Academics and Sports and the Northeastern University Center for Sport in Society. Workshops are 90 minutes long and group size is kept to 20 participants in order to create a safe and meaningful learning environment for everyone.
- For more information on the Virginia Tech MVP program, contact Katie Mey, Gender Based Violence Coordinator, at 540-231-7806 or firstname.lastname@example.org