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How To Help A Friend

Rape is an extremely traumatic experience—not only for the victims, but also for those that care about them. Providing a friend with an attentive ear and a supportive shoulder to lean on could make all the difference in the world for someone who has been sexually assaulted. However, a supportive friend may be uncertain about how to help a friend in need. The following are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind when comforting your friend.

  • First, you can begin by letting your friend know that you want to listen, and then do so. Listen attentively and let your friend talk without interrupting. You can show interest in what she or he says by sitting close and facing her/him. You may feel nervous about stalls in the conversation, as well as silences. These are OK, just let them happen. Simply providing a thoughtful ear is an important contribution to the victims’ healing process.
  • Additionally, it is important to give your friend control. All control has been stripped from her/him during the assault. It is important that you allow her/him to make decisions such as who to tell and what steps to take next. You can encourage your friend to seek medical attention or counseling, but it is important that you don’t try to force her/him to do anything.
  • It is very important also to believe your friend unconditionally. People rarely lie about being sexually assaulted. Be sure your friend is aware of how much you support her/him. Make it clear to your friend that you believe the assault happened and that the assault is the fault of the abuser, not the victim. Reassure you friend that she or he is not to blame. The only person who is responsible in a sexual assault incident is the abuser.
  • Moreover, it is important that you provide your friend with the necessary information if he or she does choose to seek help. It’s important to have the forensics exam done as soon as possible. Keep in mind that physical evidence should be collected within seventy-two (72) hours of the assault. After the exam, a victim can decide whether or not she or he wants to press charges. Also, educate your friend about the professional and confidential counseling and advocacy services available. A local rape crisis agency or IUP’s Counseling Center may provide these services. Find out about local resources here. Supporting someone can be difficult. You can seek support from the Alice Paul House or the Counseling Center.
  • Finally, it is important to let your friend know that you believe in the possibility of healing. Although there is no recipe for recovery, you can affirm your friend’s strength and capacity to heal. Your friend may be experiencing tremendous feelings of guilt and self-doubt. Try to alleviate these feelings by providing a safe and secure environment for your friend. The road to recovery is long, but not insurmountable—you could be the first step your friend chooses to take down her/his path of healing

Supporting someone can be difficult. You can seek support from the Alice Paul House or the Counseling Center.