What if my friend has been sexually assaulted?

It can be pretty full on when someone tells you they have been sexually assaulted. You’ll probably have feelings of your own to deal with and might not think there’s much you can do to help.
The good news is that your friend really trusts you, and there are heaps of things you can do to support her/him.

 

Here are the most important ones:

Listen Hear what they say and try not to interrupt. Let them talk at their own pace. Show them you are listening by making eye contact and nodding. Don’t worry if they stop talking for a while – silences are okay.

Believe Try not to over-do the questions. They can make it seem like you doubt the story. It’s important that your friend sees you’re on their side and that you support them.

Validate Tell her what s/he’s feeling is right. Let them know you think their feelings are real by repeating the feeling word (like “its okay you feel scared”). Acknowledge that you have feelings about it too, but try to keep the focus on your friend.

No blame In our society, it’s pretty common for victims to be blamed for the assault. Try to avoid questions like ‘why did you go there’ and ‘why did you go out with him’ because they might make your friend think they are responsible for what happened.

Ask If you feel a bit helpless, ask your friend what sort of help they’d like from you. They’re not expecting you to solve the problem, and you’ve already done heaps just by listening. Asking will help your friend think about what to do next.

Shhh… It’s important that your friend keeps trusting you and feels like they’re in control of the story. If you think someone else needs to know, tell your friend first. You can think together about who can be trusted, but don’t tell them until you’re friend is okay with it.

Get help Talk with your friend about what would help stop the assault (if it is still happening), or what she thinks she wants. Encourage your friend to tell a trusted adult who can do something about it, like a relative or school counsellor. Barwon CASA is also a good place to start, for you and your friend, because you don’t have to tell anyone you’re talking to us.