Content warning: This post discusses sexual assault.
Helping your friend through the aftermath of a sexual assault is something none of us ever want to imagine having to do. It’s one of those things we put in the ‘too unbearable to think about’ basket and are called macabre and doomsdayer for even allowing such thoughts to enter our minds in the first place.
But with approximately one in five Australian women experiencing sexual assault at some point in their lives, the reality is that we need to know what to say and how to say it. And while every person’s feelings, needs and responses will be unique after experiencing sexual assault, the Centre Against Sexual Assault‘s Carolyn Worth says there are some universal points that are important to remember when trying to offer support and help your friend through the situation.
1. Believe what the person is telling you.
When someone decides to open up and tell you what’s happened, it’s important to believe them wholeheartedly and without question. “It seems obvious, but often will people will say things like, ‘where were you?’ or ‘what were you doing?’, which isn’t helpful to people because they’ve already asked themselves those questions,” Worth says. The best thing a friend can do, she says, is to simply listen and let the person speak for as long as they need to.