How to Help a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted

How to Help a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted

Content Warning: This article deals with sensitive subject matter around the topic of sexual abuse.

 

When you have a loved one who has experienced sexual assault, knowing how to be an effective friend and ally can be hard to navigate. Their experience is deeply personal and traumatic. While in many cases it can be difficult to relate, there are concrete ways to help.

When a friend of Ilona’s experienced a trauma, Ilona felt helpless. In such a terrible circumstance, how would she be able to understand what her friend needed? Should she reach out, or give her space? Should she ask questions, or stay silent and wait for her to be ready to talk? In doing research, Ilona came across this article entitled: “7 Little Ways To Support Sexual Assault Survivors.” While every situation is unique, seeing these suggestions were extremely helpful.

Support is the key word to remember when it comes to language. It is easy to incorporate words of judgement into our phrases without even realizing it, or simply by asking questions about the circumstance which might subtly place blame on the survivor. Listen, validate, and remind your loved one that they are not alone. Letting them know that you believe them entirely can lend some relief to a situation that is often analyzed for discrepancies, with many victims feeling that their stories will not be taken as fact.

When having these hard discussions, it is also important to do your research ahead of time. Learn about the system for reporting, receiving medical help, and filing a court case. Understanding this will make starting a dialogue less complicated and allow your friend to accept help from you more easily.

Finally, know what resources are available so that you can help your friend receive the assistance they may need. For a comprehensive list of Crisis Centres and clinics in Toronto, as well as contact information for shelters across the city, click here.

Psychology Today is an excellent resource for finding the type of help you’re looking for – from therapists to support groups, you can find descriptions of various services narrowed down by city. For a list of Sexual Abuse Support Groups in Toronto, click here. As well, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers links to support centres for both women and children, counselling services, legal support, internet safety, support for men, and more.

There is no perfect road map for how to be a good friend to someone who has experienced trauma. However – solidarity, support and validation can go a long way in showing someone that you are on their side.

 

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