How do I help a friend who has been raped?
Believe. This is a difficult time for your friend. Believe in them and reassure them that what happened was not their fault.
Listen. Be there for your friend. Don’t ask questions about what happened. Just listen to what they want to share.
Communicate without Judgment. It can be difficult to know what to say, but it is important to choose what you say carefully. Although some things that are said are not meant to sound judgmental, the words often sound as though they are. To avoid sounding judgmental and to be sympathetic, use words of encouragement and support. Consider phrases such as:
- This was not your fault.
- I believe you.
- I am sorry this happened to you.
- You are not alone. I’m here for you.
- I will help you.
- You can trust me.
- This doesn’t change things, I will continue to be here for you.
Encourage getting help. Offer to help find resources or share resource options. Encourage your friend by offering to go along to the police station or to the medical exam for evidence collection for support. Let your friend know that they are not alone. Do not tell your friend what they “should” do. Your friend needs to be in control of the decisions to be made and the resources to be used. Respect your friend’s decisions whether you agree with them or not.
Be patient. Recovering from sexual assault is not easy and there is no set time line. Your friend will have ups and downs along the healing path.
Encourage good self-care. It is important for your friend to be able to continue on with healthy behaviors like eating well-balanced meals, getting sleep, daily grooming and hygiene, etc. This can be difficult, especially early on after an assault, but encourage your friend to try engage in self-care. It is also important for you to take care of yourself.
Seek help. If your friend is at risk of self-harm, seek immediate help by calling 911. It is better to seek help if you think something might happen such as suicide or other self-harm than to wait and see if it does. Also, this can be a difficult time for you as well. It is okay to seek help for yourself such as talking with a counselor or advocate to help you sort out your thoughts and feelings.
For more information about providing help, please visit https://www.rainn.org/get-help/help-a-loved-one