View Full Version : Friend was assaulted/possibly raped - what to say/do?

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02-01-2011, 04:53 AM
My friend didn't come into work today, and midway through the day I got a message from her asking if I could call her back. When I called her back, she said that yesterday she was assaulted. I asked her if she was okay, but she gave a sort of "well..." answer and just stated she wanted to get her head back into things. I didn't ask if the unmentionable happened, but I have a bad feeling from the sound of her voice there's a possibility it did.

The good thing is that she's pressing charges against the thug, so at least they have a suspect and it's not an unknown assailant.

I told her that I'm glad I'm hearing her voice and that she's able to talk to me after what happened, and that I'll cover for her at work and let the boss know something came up and my friend will fill her in on the details later.

Still, I'm not sure how/what to say to comfort a victim of an attack, even more so if it was a sexual assault. All I can think of is to let her know I'm here for support and can walk her home if she feels she needs an escort. Is there any way to comfort a friend who was attacked without prying or evoking the traumatic experience?

02-01-2011, 05:48 AM
The fact that she opened up what little she did to you is a good sign; you're someone she trusts, and she knows that she can trust you, she's not shutting you out.

Anything you say or do from friendship is going to be a help; just IMO, one of the most important things to state and re-state, especially to a victim of sexual assault, is that it is NEVER the victim's fault. There is going to be a myriad emotions going on, and self-blame is a huge one, "what ifs" is a huge one; just keep letting her know she did nothing wrong, it's not her fault, and what an incredibly strong person she is to be pressing charges when so few do. And be prepared for a lot of emotional ups and downs :(

You're a great friend.

02-01-2011, 05:50 AM
Still, I'm not sure how/what to say to comfort a victim of an attack, even more so if it was a sexual assault. All I can think of is to let her know I'm here for support and can walk her home if she feels she needs an escort. Is there any way to comfort a friend who was attacked without prying or evoking the traumatic experience?

This sounds very worrying. I don't have any personal experience with a friend in such a situation (thankfully), but I think your idea to let her know that you're there for her is a very good one. Offering something concrete like walking her home or dealing with the boss for her are also good ideas, as that might make her feel safer and less pressured. I would say to let her tell you what she wants to when she wants to.

02-01-2011, 06:19 AM
Just from the little I've read here, I agree that you have done exactly the right thing. This woman sound as though she may be pretty strong--she's already had the courage to open up to you a bit, as well as pressing charges--but even then, I concur with Kasey: be prepared for emotional ups and downs. An assault is MAJOR.

You do sound like a terrific friend. I'm sure you'll just how to support her. Good luck.

02-01-2011, 06:50 AM

I am so sorry for your friend. It is nice of you to be so concerned about her. I think you are doing the right thing, letting her know you are there for her. If she has not already thought about it, I would recommend professional counseling. I don't have experience in such matters but I think there must be counselors with expertise in counseling assault victims.

Good luck to you and your friend.

P.S.- She needs to let the boss know that she has an emergency or personal crisis something like that, so that her absence would not be misinterpreted. She may have to let the boss know at least some of what happened, without the details. I don't know what the HR policies are in situations like this.

02-01-2011, 07:47 AM
Let her know you're there to listen or just to give her support, but don't try to make her talk. When she's ready, she might, but it has to be her decision.

It reminds me of a roommate I had at university. One night she came home quite distraught and then she started to cry uncontrollably in the hallway. Her best friend was with her so I left them alone, I could feel it was not a good moment. In the morning I asked her what happened and she gave me the general "I was assaulted" answer. I had a feeling she was raped too but I didn't want to push to find out. The worst thing to see were the shoe prints on her face.

02-01-2011, 08:39 AM
That's so awful - I'm so sorry for you and your friend :(

My first thought is she will probably need therapy in the future - not saying you should suggest it to her - but I think she will have a lot of trouble dealing with this on her own. I think she definitely needs to talk it out with someone, and I'm glad she's confiding in you. I only suggest therapy because this is a horrifying event and sometimes people develop PTSD from stuff like this. Or they are just extremely traumatized. However, I hope she can persevere over this without things getting that extreme :)

You're a great friend to be there for her, and friends like that nowadays are hard to find.

I would definitely check to see if she has someone to walk her out to her car or wherever, especially if it's dark.

The most you can do for her right now is be there for her.

02-01-2011, 08:59 AM
Good advice upthread. Do what you can to help her feel safe and to reassure her that she isn't at fault in any way.

As for the work issues, I don't know how big your company is, but many larger companies have Employee Assistance Programs that are 100% confidential. If you have access, encourage her to use it. If you don't have access to an EAP, encourage her to get in touch with the police department's or court system's victim's advocate. She should have been given a number for this service when she filed the police report.

She definitely needs to speak with the boss. It might be good if you were with her when she calls.

Again, depending on the size of the company, she may be able to get extended leave or FMLA leave if she needs it, Taking leave is probably something she should discuss with a counselor or with the EAP if you have one. She may not want to take any time off, but she may not be in the best position to judge so close to the attack.

02-01-2011, 11:25 AM
The fact that she reached out to you tells me she trusts you. Continue to be her friend. It isn't what you say so much that counts, but how well you listen.

02-01-2011, 01:39 PM
It isn't what you say so much that counts, but how well you listen.

How very true!

Just let her know you are there to support her. Let her talk about it in her own time, and as often as she needs to.

When my sister lived in California, her roomate was raped. My sister had been at work and came home to police everywhere. (needless to say they moved within a month of the attack).

She said all she could do is let her roomate talk about it when needed, but did not push her. Sometimes just sitting together silently was all she needed...to know someone was there for her.

I found out many years later that the reason she knew what to do is that she had been raped by someone she knew. (but had never told anyone)

02-01-2011, 02:48 PM
It's wonderful that you're there for her. It would be awful to go through something like that. I think you're right to just be there for her. Let her vent to you when she needs to and just let her know you're there for her.

02-01-2011, 03:13 PM
It isn't what you say so much that counts, but how well you listen.

This is very true. I have a friend whose teenage daughter was raped a few years ago. When my friend needed to talk, I just listened to her. She told me later that I listened better than her own family or her gf.

The best thing you can do for your friend is just be there for her.

02-01-2011, 04:34 PM
Sounds like you are on the right track. If your friend hasn't looked into rape/assault victim support groups, that might be something you could find out about, or, if she wishes, you could go with her for support. There's also gotta be a rape/assault support hotline of some sort in this country that can set you up with caring people who are trained specifically to be of help to rape/assault victims (a one-on-one situation may be more comfortable for her at this point vs a support group).

Wishing her well in her recovery.

02-01-2011, 05:07 PM
You're a good friend. I'm so sorry your friend is going through this. :( But it's good that she has you to help care for her.

02-01-2011, 05:26 PM
CantALoop -- I'm glad that your friend has you. If she's living alone, might you offer to spend the night at her home or offer her the option of spending the night at yours?