How to Help: If a student discloses sexual assault to you

Believe Them
Even if their story is difficult to hear and if you know the other person(s) involved, believe what you hear. Most people who come forward are telling the truth. You may be the first person they tell their experience to.

Let them know you are there
Don’t feel like you have to say just the right thing—just being there can help.

Let them talk to a rate that’s comfortable for them—wanting to know details is natural, but hold back from interrupting or asking a lot of questions.
     • Show interest by nodding your head and keeping eye contact.
     • Don’t feel nervous about gaps in conversation, they are okay—let them happen.
     • Ask if they want to get medical attention—no matter how long ago the assault occurred.
     • Give them the phone number of the local sexual assault program or the national crisis line number.
     • Follow your school or program's policies for reporting violence against children/ youth.

Let them know you care
Some things you can say:
     • I’m sorry this happened to you.
     • What happened wasn’t your fault.
     • That must have been tough/frightening/scary for you.

Reinforce that they are not to blame
Let the student know that they did not choose or cause the rape to happen. Help them re-frame blaming statements. If they say they should have fought back, say, “It’s difficult to scream or fight back when you are scared." If they feel like the rape is their fault because they were alone with the rapist say, “You trusted that person. They violated that trust. You didn’t ask to be raped.”

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at or the Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network at