I'm worried about someone I know ... what should I do?
"I discovered that whatever situation the victim may be in, where they have been sexually assaulted they are never to blame for the assault." Nerida, aged 13
- 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.
- What should I say to the person I am worried
- The good news is that your friend really trusts you, and there are heaps of things you can do to support her/him. Keep in mind that hearing about their experience might be really hard for you. Keep in mind that you don't have to be their counsellor and possibly the best thing you can do is get help. If they're talking to you, here's some things that might help:
|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're doubting the story. It's important that your friend sees you're on their side and that you support her/him. For example, "I believe what you are saying and I want to help you".|
|validate||Tell her what she's feeling is right. Let her know you think her feelings are real by repeating the feeling word (like "It's okay you feel scared, you've been through something terrible"). 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. Instead, it could be good to remind them they are not responsible for what happened. For example, "You are not to blame for this".|
|ask||If you feel a bit helpless, ask your friend what sort of help they'd like from you (like "What can I do to to support you?"). They're not expecting you to solve the problem, and you've already done heaps just by listening. Asking them what they want 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.|
|about you||This is pretty serious stuff and it's important to look after yourself. You might be feeling shocked, upset, sad, powerless, overwhelmed, anything, but it doesn't feel good. It might even affect your study and your other relationships. Make sure you talk to someone about how you are feeling, that way it will be easier to look after your friend.|
|get help||Talk with your friend about what she'd like to do or what she thinks she wants. Talk about telling a trusted adult who can do something about it, like a relative or school counsellor. Phoning CASA House is a good place to start, for you AND your friend, because you don't have to tell anyone you're talking to us. If your friend won't tell anyone but you think she should, it's okay for you to talk to a trusted adult about it, as long as they keep it quiet. You will probably be doing your friend a huge favour and they will thank you later.|