HELPING A FRIEND
WHO HAS BEEN
~ A GUIDE FOR TEENS ~
FOR MORE INFORMATION,
CALL THE FAMILY REFUGE CENTER AT
(304) 645-6334 OR (304) 799-4400
Your support as a friend can make a big difference to someone who has been sexually assaulted. You can begin by letting your friend know you want to listen. It doesn’t matter so much what you say but how you listen. It is important to:
- Find a time to be alone with her
- Let her talk without interrupting her
- Show interest in what she says by sitting close and facing her
- Nod your head occasionally to let her know you are still with her and listening
- You may feel nervous about stalls and silences. They’re OK, just let them happen
- If she needs help to continue talking, try repeating back to her the things she has said
- BELIEVE HER – people rarely make up stories about a sexual assault
- Let her know you care. This may be the first time your friend has ever told about the sexual assault.
- Give whatever expression of sympathy is comfortable.
Some things below have worked for other teens. These include:
“It must have been tough”. “I cried with her”. “I reached out and touched her hand and put my arm around her shoulder”. ” I was afraid to open my mouth. Even though I didn’t think it was funny, I felt a giggle coming on. But I didn’t let myself giggle. I concentrated on breathing deeply and the giggle went away”. (If you do giggle or smile at the wrong moment, you can say something like “I don’t know why I did that, it just came out”).
Reassure her that SHE IS NOT TO BLAME. Blaming questions such as “Why didn’t you scream?” or “Were you hitchhiking”? are not helpful. Instead you might say, “It’s difficult to scream when you’re frightened” or Hitchhiking is risky, but you were asking for a ride, not rape”.
Let her be in control of who knows about the sexual assault. Keep whatever she says between you and maybe a trusted adult like a teacher or a mom. “I told two friends and asked them not to tell anyone. One friend didn’t tell anyone, but my best friend told my classmates and rumors were spread around school. People treat me different now – either like I did something wrong or they treat me special like I have a real problem. I don’t feel like going to school anymore”.
If your friend is a victim of incest, being a friend means to tell someone who can do something about it. You might tell a trusted adult such as a parent, a teacher, or counselor. Trained people who work at rape crisis centers or counseling agencies for kids also know what to do. Child Protect ive Services or the police can be called since incest is against the law.
NOTE: Take care of yourself too. Hearing about the sexual assault of a friend is upsetting. Sometimes people, as they are recovering from rape, reject those friends who were most helpful at their time of crisis. You may become that rejected friend because you are a clear reminder of the rape she is trying to forget. Most likely if you give her the time and space she needs, she will return to the friendship.