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What can you do when your friend has been sexually assaulted?

What can you do when your friend has been sexually assaulted?

What can you do when your friend has been sexually assaulted?
August 05
11:19 2020

It’s hard to imagine that you’d ever be in the situation, but it’s happened, and now your friend has come to you at their lowest moment — they’ve been sexually assaulted. What do you do? What can you say to help? How do you comfort someone who’s been sexually assaulted? Well, fear not, cause this article is for you. And the first step to helping your friend is to remember there might not be anything you can do to make it better, but you can do your best and do all you can to not make it worse.

Listen. You’re not a therapist.

As painful and uncomfortable as it can be, your job now is very simple. Listen. Your job is NOT to give advice unless they specifically ask for it. And at that point, the advice really should be “you should talk to a professional.” You are not a therapist (I assume), and you have no obligation to do this.

Rape destroys boundaries, it takes away a person’s sense of control and limits someone’s ability to manage the world around them. Don’t force anything. Ask if they want a hug instead of just giving one, ask permission before getting physically close, obey every boundary you can think of, like a locked gate. Don’t take over the conversation, don’t put it on your terms and don’t try to insist that they do or not do something. Do not ask for more details than what they are willingly giving to you. Just actively listen.

Believe your friend. Reassure them.

This should be obvious, but the most common reason some choose not to disclose their assault is the fear of not being believed. Rarely does someone make up an abuse story, and the worst thing you can do for your friend is to diminish the severity of their story or make them feel as if it was their fault in the first place. It is not your place, nor is it helpful, to be an interrogator.

Nobody deserves to be assaulted no matter what they wear, how they act or what they say.

Encourage them to seek help, but don’t force them.

It is imperative that you stress to your friend the importance of seeking medical attention, speaking to a counselor or therapist or reporting the assault. However, DO NOT force them to do anything they aren’t willing to do at the current moment. The power they have in these decisions will help them feel back in control.

Giving the victim the opportunity to be in control of what happens next is one of the most important things you can do. As a sexual assault victim advocate, I do think that reporting to law enforcement can be a really productive step in healing, to acknowledge that what happened is illegal and wrong. It allows the opportunity for closure. It should also be stressed that the experience of reporting can be really negative since the system is sometimes against the victim. If there is a local rape crisis center see if they can send an advocate to be there if they decide to report to law enforcement.

Be aware of that information but at the end of the day, it is their choice to make, not yours.

Things you can say

  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “I’m sorry this happened.”
  • “I believe you.”
  • “How can I help you?”
  • “I am glad you told me.”
  • “I’ll support your choices.”
  • “You’re not alone.”

Support yourself as well.

Remember to take care of you. It can be easy to get wrapped up and get depressed, especially if you have been a victim of assault. If necessary, make sure you get some mental separation sometimes and exercise or do whatever helps you with stress relief. While being there for a friend can be incredibly helpful, its important you also maintain your own boundaries for the sake of your well being as well.

Some resources should you or your friend decide to use them:

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

About Author

Chance Townsend

Chance Townsend

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