How to help a friend who has experienced sexual assault

Sexual assault is a very traumatizing experience, and it can affect not only the survivor, but that survivor’s support system as well. To survivors – never feel like you’re being a burden by asking your friends for help, or by opening up to people about your experiences. To friends of survivors – never feel like you don’t have the right to be affected by what you’re hearing; it doesn’t make you a worse friend just because you need a bit of support. Take care of yourself and you will be better equipped to help your friend.

If a friend discloses that they have been sexually assaulted, you should know where to get help. Keep SHARE in mind: If you can’t think of anything to do, you can give SHARE a call, text or email. Similarly, consider the South Eastern Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis line! They are a terrific place to start.

Most importantly, do not interrogate your friend. Do not force them to answer any questions – everything they choose to say should be on their own terms. Stay supportive, and tell them you believe everything they say. Do not pressure them into choosing certain resources – let them stay in control and have a say in what next steps they take. Present them with different options, but do not judge them if they do not want to do anything about what happened. Make it clear that they can change their mind and access any resources in the coming weeks or months.

People who have experienced sexual assault have up to a year, and longer in extenuating circumstances, to report the assault to SHARE. There is no time limitation on reporting to the police. If the person wishes to have evidence collected by a sexual assault nurse examiner at the Moncton Hospital, there is a window of 120 hours, or five days. They can choose to have evidence collected and to have a physical examination done without involving the RCMP if they wish. Local pharmacies are able to provide Plan B (emergency contraception) which can be taken to prevent pregnancy. STI testing can be done at the Wellness Centre on campus, and preventative treatments for STIs can be provided by the sexual assault nurse examiner at the Moncton Hospital.

Experiencing sexual assault can drastically change the course of someone’s life. There is no way to magically make it all better, but you can keep an eye on your friend. Take note of alarming changes to their mood or if they are struggling with their mental health. You can suggest they access on-campus mental health resources through the Wellness Centre or speak to Melody in the SHARE office at any point. If your friend suddenly starts showing warning signs like a drastic change in sleeping or eating patterns, increase in consumption of drugs or alcohol, withdrawal from social activities or generally just seems very different, it might be a good time to suggest they get help.

SHARE can help with support, advice and resources. If your friend wants to talk to Melody but not take any further action, that is completely up to them.

SHARE: share@mta.ca,

506-540-7427

South Eastern Sexual Assault Centre Crisis Line (24/7):

1-844-853-0811

Wellness Centre (access to mental health resources): wellness@mta.ca, 506-364-2163

Isabelle Spinney
Isabelle Spinney is a Contributor to the Argosy, and the SHARE intern for the 2018-19 Academic Year.