Any time that someone is a victim of a violent crime such as a rape, they will need plenty of support. If you find out that a friend of yours has been a victim of rape, there are several ways that you can help. Here is a list of five specific suggestions:
- Be a good listener. More than anything, your friend will need someone to talk to. You should listen without judging or offering any criticism. Your friend will very likely be afraid, anxious, and perhaps even blaming herself for becoming a victim. Be careful about asking for details, your friend will have their own “timetable” for how to reveal difficult information and having to answer too many questions can be stressful. Be extremely cautious about the lines of trust—if your friend has chosen to confide something so personal and so painful in you, then you need to respect that and be willing to help them in the ways that they can accept. Above all else, respect their privacy and confidentiality—it is not your place to share this information with anyone, regardless of the circumstances. Let your friend decide if and when to share this information with their parents, boyfriend or other friends.
- If the incident has just occurred, strongly encourage your friend to seek medical attention at the hospital. Collecting evidence is extremely time sensitive, and the longer a victim waits, the more difficult it is to gather the evidence necessary for certain legal actions. Offer to give your friend a ride and support them through the extremely invasive and potentially embarrassing or painful medical procedures that may accompany a rape investigation. Even when there are no physical injuries, collecting the physical evidence is important and should occur as soon as possible after the assault.
- Look into local rape support agencies and rape treatment centers and give your friend the contact information. While you can be a good friend by listening and supporting her, facilitating her while she seeks professional support is important. Some support groups meet in person, others may offer phone support for reluctant victims to get advice and support.
- Encourage your friend to contact the local police department. This can be a difficult step, and while you should strongly urge your friend to press charges, be understanding that this is extremely scary for her. Not only can the police work toward solving the crime, they can also help assure the victim of their safety and help them with learning personal protection.
- Understand that moving on after a sexual assault or rape can take a significant amount of time. There is no specific or expected time frame for dealing with the guilt, blame, humiliation, pain and other emotions that follow any attack. Do not force your friend to “move on” according to any time frame other than her own. The pain can last a long time, even forever.
Supporting a friend that has been raped is emotionally draining. Be sure to take care of yourself and seek support when necessary. This could be one of the most difficult things you are called upon to do in the line of any friendship.