What to do when your friend tells you they've been abused...

*True story, names changed.

Madison and Grant have known each other their entire lives and are best friends. She helps him with Christmas presents for his mom, he helps her with the latest guy drama. He’s a bit more reserved, she’s a wildcard. They’re very close and Madison, for the first time, is about to be more vulnerable than she’s ever been. 

Madison: I have to tell you something.. 
Grant: What?
Madison: It's serious and I haven't told anyone
Grant: Wait what? What’s wrong?
Madison: I was raped. 
Grant: Oh, you don’t remember, you already told me that. Whew, I thought it was serious. Wanna go to Starbucks?
Madison: Oh. Um, I guess.. yeah.

Madison thought to herself, “Wait what? I don’t remember telling him that, but I guess I did…or maybe someone else did? but who would know?  but… he still just brushed it off and acted like it wasn’t a big deal…I guess it isn’t THAT big of a big deal, I mean…I’m okay now…kind of…” and this topic was never brought up again. Not when Madison felt triggered, not when she had flashbacks and nightmares, not ever. 

Why do I tell you this story?

It’s important to know what to say or do when your friend tells you something like this, whether it’s the first or second or third or seventeenth time. 

When your friend tells you they’ve been sexually or physically assaulted:

  1. Do not brush it off and act like it doesn’t take courage to tell someone. If they feel comfortable enough with you to tell you something like that, sympathize and thank them for being vulnerable enough to share such a tough situation. Understand the gravity of the situation.
  2. Don’t panic. Maybe on the inside it’s inevitable, but keep a calm and caring front with them. They are probably panicking themselves and need someone that isn’t going to jump to conclusions on what actions to take right away immediately.
  3. Ask them if they are okay and how you can help, but NOT about the details if they don’t voluntarily share them. 
  4. Don’t make a police report without their consent
  5. Tell the victim about RAINN or any Rape Crisis Centers in your area. It’s important to know what their safe options are.
  6. Don’t treat them like a wounded bird. They’re still your friend and likely don’t want to be treated differently long term. He/she wants to be heard, supported & not patronized. At the end of the day, your friend is still your friend. 

I hope this is helpful on what to do or say when your friend discloses shocking news. Don’t be like Grant. 

 

Refer to the Resources tab on UnveiledCampaign.com for the RAINN website.