How to Help a Friend

Bystander Intervention

Bystanders are people who witness or see a specific action or event, but aren’t the direct actors in that event. Bystander intervention, or being an active bystander, is part of being a member of the Roberts community. We all have an important role in preventing sexual violence when we are confronted with problematic situations. See PDF.

Being an active bystander can include:

  • Speaking out against statements, attitudes, or behavior that may perpetuate a culture endorsing violence as acceptable or inevitable
  • Naming and stopping situations that could lead to sexual assault
  • Stepping in during a high-risk incident, whether by disruption, distraction, speaking up, or even calling for help so others can step in.
  • Supporting and believing others when they feel uncomfortable or hurt
  • Helping others respond to problematic situations

Being an active bystander does not mean that you should risk your personal safety, or that you need to become a vigilante. There are a range of actions that are appropriate, depending on you and the risky situation at hand. Remember, if you are ever worried for the immediate safety of yourself or others, you can decide to leave the situation and seek outside help – that’s still bystander intervention!

Supporting your Friend if He or She is a Victim

The first step to helping people who have been sexually assaulted is to believe them, listen carefully to them and provide support. Your friend has taken an important step in seeking help and your response to his/her disclosure may determine the next step for your friend.

Although there is no universal reaction to being sexually assaulted, many victims feel guilty, often blaming themselves instead of the perpetrator. Victims sometimes feel they could or should have done something differently that would have prevented the assault. Other common feelings include fear, embarrassment and confusion. It is important that as a friend, you understand that a sexual assault is something which they had no control over happening to them. Simply telling your friends that is was not their fault can help to alleviate some of the confusion and overwhelming emotions they may be experiencing. These feelings, along with denial may be why it takes days, weeks, months or years for the victim to tell anyone.