Today I want to discuss how you can help support a friend who has been raped or sexually assaulted. I will look at how to support a confession of having been abused at a later time, however, much of the same things apply to both. If you have been abused, raped, or assaulted, you may find this topic triggering. If you find yourself being triggered, please stop reading, and do something kind for yourself instead.
If a friend of yours comes to you and tells you that they have been raped or sexually assaulted, know that this means they trust you. Don’t take that lightly. It takes an insane amount of courage and trust to tell about something like this. So, what can you do at this point?
First of all, believe them. They may have trouble with the details, but this does not mean they are lying. It is common for people who have been through a traumatic event to not remember, or to mix up, the details of the event.
Don’t blame them, or talk to them about “personal responsibility.” There is a time and a place for everything, and this applies to personal responsibility as well, no matter how much I hate what it has come to represent. Don’t ask them what they were wearing, or what they had been drinking, or why they were in that part of town. Those things are all irrelevant. Right now, they are in pain, and they need to know that you care about them. If you ask those questions, it is the same as saying that they could have prevented it if they had done something differently. And that may or may not be true, but even if it is, it does NOT help them now.
Offer to help in ways that you are able and comfortable doing. If you are able and comfortable going to any appointments or the police with them, make that offer. If you are able and willing to sit with them while they sleep, offer to do so. But whatever you offer, make sure you are willing and able to actually follow through.
Provide them a sense of normalcy. Don’t treat them differently just because they have been raped or assaulted. Ask them if they want to go out with you. Talk to them about normal, every day things. However, don’t expect them to sympathize too much about that failing grade you got on your latest test, or about how someone was mean to you at the office.
Above all else, don’t walk away from them. You may not know what to say, and that is alright. They may not even know what they want to hear at that moment. But knowing that you are there, you hear them, and you care will mean the world to them. – Amanda