for the supporters

You may feel a little out of your depth at the moment, may feel a little unsure about what to say or do. Listed below are some tips on how to support your friend. You may also want to look at the list of possible effects on the General Information Page, this will give you an idea of what it is your friend may be feeling and thinking.

It can be a really difficult thing, hearing about abuse from your friends, it might change the way you look at them or even make you feel a little uncomfortable. Remember to look after yourself and if you can, provide support for your friend too. If you can't maybe you could ask somebody else to.

Some tips on how to support a friend

Be patient, don't push him/her into anything they're not sure about. It's important to let them make final decisions so they feel like they're in control.
  • Listen to your friend. Ask them what they need and try to do it. Try not to make promises you can't keep, be honest with what you can do.
  • Talking about sexual abuse is a really hard thing to do. Many people don't tell others because they feel ashamed about what happened so let them know that you want to help and support them.
  • Don't blame your friend. We all have the right to be safe wherever we are. It is never the survivors fault that they were raped/sexually abused. The most important thing is to find support for your friend, leave your judgements to one side.
  • Don't tell others about what happened unless he/she wants you to. You can talk privately(i.e you don't have to give out names) to support agencies like the ones listed. Respect your friends right to privacy.
  • Help her/him identify who the supportive people are around them. Who can help her/him and you in this situation?
  • Encourage her/him to talk to one of the support agencies listed. Talking about what happened can help, but don't push.
  • If you are a partner(boyfriend/girlfriend), she/he may not like you touching them at the moment. Don't take it personally, they might just need some space and time to sort out their feelings. It'll also be weird for them not wanting to touch you, it takes time!
  • Don't assume stuff, always check stuff out. Anything that involves them, check it out. This includes talking to others about what has happened, being sexual with each other etc.
  • Don't play the overprotective bit, it sometimes gets annoying. It's great to want to protect your friend but not so that it smothers.
  • Don't expect them to look after you. You can talk about how you feel about what happened to her/him, but they've got enough to deal with, so make sure you've got someone to talk to about this as well.
  • If you're really wanting to help, but you're unsure how, try looking at the What do I do? page, you may get some hints off there. Being armed with information is great - it will help you and your friend know what you can do.
  • Don't give advice - listen and give information that you've learned. Let them take up what they do or don't want to.
  • If after a week, month, year your friend doesn't feel 'normal' again, don't freak or pressure them. Sometimes it can take a really long time. So give them space, think about how you'd want others to treat you.
  • You can print this out and give to friends/ family that know if you like. This can be a really difficult time for all those involved so having a list of what may be helpful or not can be useful. Adults can also benefit from the list, they don't know everything and it may be hard on them too, so having something written down can help them too.

    More Support for the supporters

    Here is a list of suggestions to help you deal with listening to someone's experience of sexual abuse.

  • Have you got someone you can talk to about how you feel?
  • Talk with a friend/ school counsellor about your reactions.
  • Will a sister/ brother/ mum/ dad offer wise words of wisdom??
  • If it gets too much for you, hook your friend up with someone else, let them know it's not because you don't like them.
  • Do nice things for yourself, not everything has to evolve around talking about the sexual abuse/ unwanted sexual experience. Go to the movies, hang out with friends, listen to music.
  • Arm yourself with knowledge and information. This website is a good start.
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