Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

How to Help a Sexual Assault Survivor


  • Safety--Take her/him to a safe place and stay with them in case they are still in danger.  If you have safety concerns, call the Department of Public Safety at 717-291-3939.
  • Call the 24-Hour F&M Sexual Assault Response Line--717-560-7311.
  • Medical--She/He needs medical attention, including treatment of her/his injuries and testing and treatment for pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  She/He should save any evidence in the event she/he chooses to press criminal charges against her/his attacker.  A forensic exam for the purpose of collecting evidence as well as providing medical treatment, can be done at Lancaster General Hospital Emergency Room.  If she/he does not choose to seek medical attention, she/he should be encouraged to make an appointment at Appel Health Services within the first three days after the assault.  This visit will be confidential and does not constitute "reporting" the assault to the College. It will be for medical treatment only.


  • The single most important factor in a person's recovery from rape is whether or not she/he is believed.  And she/he should be.  Very few rapes or assaults are false reports.  In fact, according to the FBI, only 4 - 8% of assault reports are false reports.
  • It may be hard to believe that another F&M student could do this.
  • Don't blame her/him or agree with her/him if she/he blames herself.  Remember that even if you believe she/he made poor decisions, no one ever deserves to be assaulted.  Even if she/he was intoxicated, it's still an assault.


  • What she/he needs from you is to be believed and comforted.
  • Let her/him be in charge.  She/he may want a hug, or she/he may not want to be touched.  The best procedure is to ask, "would you like a hug?"


  • Remember rape is never her/his fault.
  • Listen to what she/he wants to say, and don't judge her/his statements.
  • Don't ask for details about where she/he was or what she/he was wearing.
  • Don't suggest or guess why it happened.


  • Allow her/him to make choices--put her/him back in control.  Who she/he tells and what she/he wants to do are her/his choices.
  • Encourage her/him to get help, but leave the choices up to her/him.
  • Accept her/his decisions, even if you don't agree.
  • Respect the victim's privacy.  Don't discuss what you hear with anyone else.


  • Survivors often remain in acute trauma for months. Even with counseling, it is not uncommon for the survivor to feel the effects of the trauma for a year or more. Recovery can take even longer, especially if the survivor can't confide in someone or thinks that they are not believed.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common emotional and psychological response to a painful, shocking experience such as sexual assault.  Symptoms may include re-experiencing the attack, nightmares, anxiety, avoidance, anger, guilt and shame, depression, negativity, and difficulty forming and maintaining relationships.
  • Encourage her/him to seek counseling through F&M's Counseling Services 717-291-4083 or the YWCA Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center (717-392-7273).
  • Don't talk to the survivor about your own feelings, but rather consider seeking counseling for yourself to work through these feelings.