3. SUPPORTING A FRIEND / AWHITIA TŌ HOA
Sometimes, as a friend of someone who has experienced sexual violence, you may be the first person they have told. It can be hard to know what to do when they tell you but just by listening you can be a massive support to your friend. Here are some tips:
Just listen. Acknowledge what they’ve told you. You can also show that you’re listening with your body language.
e.g. “Thank you for telling me, that must have been really hard
You don’t have to solve it.
Your friend probably doesn’t expect you to solve the problem. They may just want support or someone to tell.
You don’t need to be an expert, just a good mate who can listen and give support when needed. Make sure you get support for yourself too - it is a really good thing to support people through this stuff but it can also be tough on you.
Often survivors will feel like no one will believe what’s happened to them, so they never tell anyone. Sometimes it can be helpful just to say “I want you to know I believe you.” and “It’s not your fault.”
SAFETY – WHAT YOU CAN DO
Even if your friend has made you promise not to tell anyone, there are some times when we do have to tell a safe adult. These are:
- If the sexual violence is still happening, to your friend or someone else
- If your friend is planning on hurting themselves, or someone else
Ask your friend if they are safe now. If you are worried about them, talk to a professional adult like a school counsellor, nurse, social worker or police officer. Or you could talk to a safe adult that you trust like a parent, caregiver or teacher.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If your friend is not in danger - ask them what they want to do. People deal with this sort of thing in different ways so ask what they are keen to do and how you could help them.
Offer to go with them to talk to someone who can help, like a counsellor, teacher, a family member or caregiver. If your friend is safe now, then there may be no need to rush to get them help. They may need some time before they are ready to get help. Respect their right to go at their own speed.
If they want to see someone to get help, you can ask if they want you to go with them. You could help them make the first couple of phone calls to look for the help they want. It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing. Helping people deal with this stuff often takes specialist training and you’re doing great by just being there.