Sexual assault is a term that encompasses a myriad of sex-based crimes, which are all traumatic for the victim and can be difficult to discuss with others. The unfortunate reality is that these things do happen and can even happen to the people we love. It can be difficult to learn how to help and be there for a loved one when we haven’t experienced what they have. Let’s take a look at some tips on how to support a friend who’s been sexually assaulted.
When you love someone, it’s very natural to be angry or sad about something bad that happened to them. Sometimes it may make us so upset that we want to yell about it or even panic. However, when a loved one comes to you about a difficult experience, it’s important to stay as calm as possible for their sake. Reacting in an extreme manner can cause them to withdraw for a myriad of reasons, and it may make them too afraid to tell others for fear of their reactions. The best thing you can do is to keep a level head and process your feelings later when you’re away from them.
Be Ready To Listen
If you can’t think of what to say, sometimes the best thing you can do is simply admit that you have nothing to say and listen to them. Allow them to tell you what they’re ready to speak about, and don’t force them or pry into the details that they may not be ready to share. Give them a safe space to express to you what occurred, and let them know that you’re happy they felt comfortable enough to confide in you. Their story may seem disjointed or scattered, and they may need consistent support over time. You can maintain healthy boundaries in case something triggers or upsets you while being there for them at the same time.
Believe and Validate Them
One of the main reasons why some people don’t report sexual assault is because they fear that people won’t believe them or will blame them. Don’t question parts of the story that may seem odd or out of place, as they’re likely having a difficult time recalling the details of what occurred. You should not judge them for what occurred or ask questions that place blame on them for the crime someone committed against them. Questions such as these will make them feel at fault. Remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. You might ask these questions because you’re seeking to protect them from future incidents, but they merely instill guilt in victims.
Ultimately, the best ways you can support a friend who’s been sexually assaulted are to listen, keep shared information confidential, and support their decisions. You can encourage them to report the incident or get medical assistance, but it is an important part of their healing process to allow the victim to feel in control. Simply being there and being their anchor are the best things you can do.