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Friend was assaulted/possibly raped - what to say/do?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by CantALoop, Feb 1, 2011.

  1. CantALoop

    CantALoop Well-Known Member

    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?
  2. Kasey

    Kasey Correcting President Trump's grammar on Twitter :)

    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.
  3. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    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.
  4. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C


    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.
  6. WindSpirit

    WindSpirit OmnipresentAdmeanistrator

    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.
  7. ryanbfan

    ryanbfan Active Member

    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.
  8. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    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.
  9. Meredith

    Meredith what a glorious day!

    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.
  10. Gypsy

    Gypsy Watching the Leaves Change!

    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)
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2011
  11. Satellitegirl

    Satellitegirl New Member

    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.
  12. ChelleC

    ChelleC Well-Known Member

    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.
  13. LilJen

    LilJen Reaching out with my hand sensitively

    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.
  14. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    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?
    *Jen* and (deleted member) like this.
  16. Civic

    Civic New Member

    I'm sorry this happened to your friend. In addition to listening to her when she's ready and walking her to car at night, other practical assistance would include bringing food to her home or offering to run errands for her. I agree with other posters that she definitely needs to talk to her boss if she hasn't already done so.
  17. ArtisticFan

    ArtisticFan Well-Known Member

    As someone who was assaulted at the end of November (not as serious as this situation sounds like it is), I can tell you that you sound like you are already being a great friend to her. She will and is obviously going through a lot of emotions. There will be moments when she remembers certain details because of a sound, word, sight, smell, etc. Sometimes those feel like setbacks, but they are pretty much unavoidable. The woman who attacked me used a broom handle of all things. I find myself starting to remember things when I see my husband holding a broom to clean the floors.

    The biggest thing you can do is be patient. In the upcoming weeks and days she will seem fine some moments and not so fine other moments. The process has taught me who I can count on and who I can't in situations like this. I am still eternally grateful to my mother who when I am at her house (where the attack happened) because of a work function, she meets me outside and even sleeps in the second bed in the room. I don't ask her to do these things, but they help so much that she just does them.

    Since you do work with her, helping her explain the situaiton to the boss would be helpful. Additionally, you could help by being on rumor patrol. When something like this happens gossip stirs. People don't know how to deal with it and some will even make poor jokes or say things like..."It could have been worse." I have a co-worker who fought these battles for me. I still heard people talking, but she told them exactly where to put their opinions.
  18. viennese

    viennese Well-Known Member

    echo that.

    Work absences of any kind are noticed and misinterpreted ("did so and so quit? get fired? is she *really* sick").

    One way to be a good friend is to assure her that everything she says, or has said, will remain in absolute confidence.
  19. Twilight1

    Twilight1 Well-Known Member

    Nothing to add other than it is awesome that you are being such a great friend to this woman.
  20. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

    Just be there for her. If she wants to talk, listen, but don't ask any questions about the assault if she doesn't open up herself. It might be too difficult for her to talk about.

    Just try to make her feel that she can rely on you and that you will be there for her when she needs it.

    You sound like a great friend, good luck with everything!
  21. CantALoop

    CantALoop Well-Known Member

    Thanks everyone for your advice. My friend said that she would come in today but she didn't show up, so I left a message on her phone saying that I'll continue to handle things here and am there to lend help if she needs.

    I told our boss that a very personal emergency happened and it would be much better to let my friend tell her. My boss is really empathic to her employees and students, so she was more concerned than angry that X wasn't at work. She asked me if I knew what happened, and I said, "From the nature of the situation, I think the difficulty of this situation is at a personal level where it would be best explained by X herself"

    You're right about being on rumor patrol. Some coworkers are already like :rolleyes: at that she's missed two days of work. It's tough coming up with an excuse without causing further curiosity or nosiness. A mutual friend at work was really concerned, so I told her to give X a call in private just to check in.

    X is a spunky, effervescent girl, which is why it was extremely troubling when she seemed subdued and vague as she described the situation yesterday. You're probably right - she's so headstrong that she probably wouldn't think to reach out for therapy. I did call around and mentioned in my message that if she ever thinks she needs assistance, campus does offer confidential counseling services she can use for free.

    The PTSD and emotional scars that assault/rape victims is why I'm handling this very delicately, and asking for advice (I knew I could count on FSU for a great assortment of opinions :respec:). It's quite a mental task to choose the right words to say/do in order to not trigger any memories of whatever happened.

    It's so complicated because I want to help, yet I know I have to give her space, but I don't want her to think her friends are distant or uncaring as well.
  22. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C


    You are a wonderful friend. I am sure your friend really appreciates that.