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What Should I Do If My Friend Was Sexually Assaulted?

What Should I Do If My Friend Was Sexually Assaulted?The term “sexual assault” describes a sex act committed without someone’s consent, where a person is threatened, coerced or forced to engage in any sexual act. Sexual assault is a serious offense that causes extreme physical and psychological pain. Unfortunately, survivors of sexual assault may endure several stigmas that keep them quiet about their pain and away from help. Survivors of sexual assault also experience guilt, shame and fear, which prevent them from discussing the issue even with close friends and family.

Supporting a friend or family member who was sexually assaulted means listening to her and making her feel safe. You should offer your friend sympathy, understanding and encouragement, but also allow time to heal. Friends should do their best to stay involved in a loved one’s recovery; take initiative to maintain communication, and keep an eye out for signs of trouble.

How to Address Sexual Assault with a Friend

While there are many hotlines and treatment services for survivors of sexual assault, survivors should never be forced into treatment. Friends and family should provide informed support; they should learn about the resources and services available to encourage help. On the other hand, loved ones must avoid pressuring survivors into seeking help, because this will only make them feel threatened and less likely to talk with loved ones in the future.

Friends and family of a sexual assault survivor can seek guidance from counselors and helpline operators. Friends and family will be affected by their loved one’s experience; it is common to feel guilt, impatience, confusion or even fear. Friends and family can deal with these issues by getting help from counseling, therapy, educational services, support groups and more.

Effects of Sexual Assault

Surviving sexual assault can lead to many long-term, disturbing effects. When friends and family know of the many adverse effects of sexual assault, they can watch out for signs that their loved one needs help. There are numerous potential effects of sexual assault, and the most common ones include the following examples:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-injury
  • Stockholm syndrome (victims establishing a emotional bond with their abuser to cope)
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Eating disorders
  • Dissociative identity disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Sleep disorders
  • Isolation, detachment
  • Avoidance, apathy, numbing
  • Extreme feelings of guilt and shame
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear
  • Anger, hostility or aggression
  • Sexualized behaviors or sexual dysfunction

If you recognize any of these symptoms in a loved one, he may have endured sexual assault.

Help a Loved One Recover from Sexual Assault

If you want to learn more about how to help a loved one recover from sexual assault, please call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline. Our recovery professionals can answer your questions and connect you to treatment services that will help your loved one. By being informed you are already helping your loved one’s recovery. To learn more, call and speak with a recovery professional today.