What To Do If Your Friend Is Sexually Assaulted

October 5, 2017

I just did some blog posts on what to do if you’re assaulted, but what do you do if your friend is?

Again, this is just my personal advice. Go check some other resources and do what you think feels right. But from my perspective, this is the advice I would give.

  1. If it has just happened, try to get them immediate help. See if they’d be open to talking to the police and/or getting a rape kit done. This will prove invaluable now, and the window is very small to do it. They may be in total shock. So, you can be the one taking care of important logistical stuff. It’s hard to know what to do. Help them.
  2. If it’s been a little while and they are just looking to you for support, one thing I believe is that you should keep a very hard line of, “this is not your fault.” I know the reason your friend is coming to you is because they love and trust you. So, you’re very close with them. That means you probably have had a million conversations throughout your friendship that have gone very back and forth and meandered.You could analyze a text conversation for two hours. Hmmm who is in the wrong here?in some ways, it will feel easy to talk about assault in the same way. I know that we stand up on social media for victims in a large blanket-over-everyone way. But when it comes down to one-on-one conversations – especially if the perpetrator was someone the victim was involved with in any way, it might become slightly easy to morph in to a “normal” relationship conversation where they start making excuses for the person, and you just jump to agreement, because you’re on the same “team” as your friend! And you see the best in people, so you’re cool to make excuses for a little mildly bad behavior. But this isn’t that. So, don’t let it become that.When they start wondering if they caused it, you don’t have to shut them down. You don’t have to squelch their feelings, or not allow them to feel or to talk. But you have to take a very (very) hard line that what happened to your friend wasn’t okay. There is no excusing it. Your friend is not being dramatic. And they did nothing to cause what happened to them.I just cannot stress this one enough. So many survivors will minimize. I have heard horrific stories that so obviously rape where people still question, “Well, I don’t know. I mean, was it really ‘rape,’ that’s such a scary word?”And I’m not saying you need to go so in the opposite of minimizing that it scares them or makes it all seem too much. I’m just saying they will do enough minimizing. I know it’s in our nature to agree with our friends for the most part. But this is the one time where there is a giant line in the sand of agreement. Once they’ve told you they’ve been assaulted, if they start to talk themselves out of the seriousness of it, or explain to themselves why actually it’s aaaaall their fault for not fighting enough, you just keep being supportive with whatever your own special way of saying, “you did nothing wrong.”(I hope that all made sense. I sort of feel like those paragraphs were potentially confusing, but hopefully not!)
  3. Almost lastly – and I’m stealing this one from the RAINN tips, because I think it’s good advice.   “Avoid phrases that suggest they’re taking too long to recover.” It’s gonna take however long it takes.If you need to help them remember to go to therapy or take a medication or something, that’s a helpful thing to do – that’s a way to show you are indeed hoping they get better, without putting the pressure on them that they’re not healing as fast as you’d want.I do understand that it can be exhausting to be a confidant of someone with major depression or PTSD or any of the other side effects of being assaulted. It can be exceptionally hard on you. There are resources and support groups for friends and family of people dealing with that. Maybe join something like that, or look up online resources for help.If you absolutely cannot be active friends or partners with someone dealing with those major issues, then give only what you can. Or say you’re sorry for having to do this, but that you need to take a break from them. While it is very hard, from the survivor’s point of view, to see people leaving your life – often because you’re sort of pushing them out… It can get so lonely and add even more sadness on top of a well of sadness. But for me, I was already putting enough pressure on myself all the time that I wasn’t following the magical timeline of “getting better” in my head, that as sad as it was to feel more and more alone, it would be even sadder and/or more frustrating (for me, at least) to be with someone who can’t wrap their mind around “where’s the Aurora I know?! Get up! Be happy!” That pressure is a lot.
  4. And that’s what I have to say. (Number 2 is of utmost importance here.) You can read more RAINN tips here.You got this. I believe in your sweet friendship ability!

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