I have spoken with many people that want to learn how to better support a friend after their friend discloses being sexually assaulted. The truth is that the best support for our friends is to be available and accessible. When we are available & accessible our friends may begin to share further details as to how you can support them. Follow their lead.
After our loved ones have been sexual assaulted, he or she may have varying responses. There is no exact approach to supporting a friend because there is no exact way that our friends will need our support after being sexually assaulted.
The following are few examples of the impact of sexual violence on survivors.
Not eating enough
Flashbacks of sexual violence
As I shared before that the best response to your friend is not a canned statement or even scripture. It is that we be available to our friend. If we can make ourselves available to our friend after they have disclosed a history and/or recent experience of sexual violence it can make all the difference.
Availability & accessibility looks like us telling our friend "i'm here if/when you need or want me" and then actually being there when our friend reaches out. The invitation that you share with your friend is golden - but only if we follow through. Being "here" for our friend may look like:
Showing up to their home for movie night
Meeting up for tea
Going for a jog or walk
Accompanying the friend at the police department if they choose to report the incident
Helping the friend process via phone at 10am, 5am, 3:35pm, or 8pm
Praying with him/her
Praying for him/her during your daily prayer ritual
Offering to babysit your friend's children just to give him/her a break
Accompanying your friend to a doctor's appointment
Asking for your friend's consent before you hug, touch, or attempt to have physical contact with him/her like you would normally
Being "here" for our friends is a beautiful concept that The Word of God encourages.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil." Simply put our being "here" for the friend who has been sexually assaulted can make the difference in their recovery. However, just know that our friends can also choose not to accept your invitation. Your friend may choose to pull back and retreat due to fear and shame. And that is ok too.
This is a perfect time for you as a friend to practice the art of release.
Releasing your friend is a prayer and a gift. It allows your friend to decide for themselves how they want to move forward. Friendship has it's rewards in that we often times help to shape and develop our friends via influence. Standing in our truth and authenticity alone can empower and support our friends! After a sexual assault it is important for a survivor/victim/overcomer to experience their own worth, power, and value, to know that they are empowered to make choices that are best for them.
I want to share that so many of our friends have been sexually assaulted whether they choose to share those intimate details with us or not. It is time to be mindful of that reality; the statistics are staggering. Being available and accessible to our friends after a sexual assault starts before the assault occurs. It begins with our approach to the concept of victimization.
Do we find ourselves blaming victims that disclose in the media? Do we find ourselves angry because a victim or survivor is suing the assailant in civil court?
I am suggesting that our level of sensitivity & humility could stand some challenging.
It is time to stop blaming victims and survivors in public and in private!