Do’s (what can be helpful)
- Do make time to be alone with them so they can talk to you without being interrupted.
- Do listen and believe what they tell you (even if you have questions this is not the time to ask them, let them talk to you without being pressured to offer more information).
- It is difficult to hear that someone you care about has been hurt, do your best to show your support in ways that feel comfortable for you and show you care, this may include nodding or listening without judgement.
- Be patient, let your friend take their time to tell you whatever they want to when they are ready. Trying to rush someone or make them feel better quickly will only put them under more pressure.
- If they seem to be stuck for words, give them time- try repeating back what they’ve already said, to help them
- Let them know the assault or abuse was not their fault. Remember that sexual assault is against the law.
- Encourage but don’t force them to seek professional help such as a counsellor
- Do try to put aside your own feelings/opinions as it can be difficult for them to deal with your feelings as well as their own
- Afterwards, if you are worried about what your friend told you, you could call the Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 1800 806 292 or the Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800 for support and advice, these services are confidential and can help you sort out your feelings.
Don’ts (what is unhelpful)
- Don’t blame or make judgements- It takes a lot of courage for someone to talk about abuse, if they feel judged they are likely to shut down and not talk about it again.
- Please do not ask questions like: “Why didn’t you scream?” or “Why didn’t you tell someone sooner?”- this can make them feel guilt or lead them to blame themselves
- It may help to acknowledge their feelings, for example: “That must have been so frightening”, or “It must be so hard to talk about this”, or “This was not your fault”, “how can I help you?”
- Don’t tell anyone else about what your friend has told you, unless they have asked you to help them get help. Your friend needs to decide who knows. You can encourage them to tell a trusted adult who can help arrange professional support. (See: Who, how and what to tell?)
- Don’t force them to make decisions that you feel is best for them- such as telling their parents
- If you offer advice keep it general and open, focus on their feelings and what they need from you to help them feel safe. Try not to make promises such as “the police will lock him up” this might include providing options instead of forcing them to do something for example, “it sounds like you feel unsafe have you thought about speaking with police?”.