Author’s note: This article discusses sexual assault.
I will never forget the day my friend approached me with tears in her eyes. Fear filled her voice as she began to speak. The words I heard next broke my heart completely.
“A few months ago, I was sexually assaulted,” she said.
These words echoed in my head as I started experiencing a range of emotions. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. A longing to help take the pain away, to get justice for what happened to her.
My good friend recently opened up to me about her experience with sexual assault. While supporting her, I’ve learned a lot. While everybody copes in different ways, here’s what I’ve learned while helping her through this experience.
1. Everyone Cope’s with Sexual Assault At a Different Pace
When my friend first opened up to me, she was only able to speak about it for a few moments. A couple months later, she brought it up again and decided to tell me more. The understanding that individuals deal with sexual assault in their own way is absolutely vital.
2. It is Not My Decision To Report The Assault
After listening to my friend share her heart with me, I immediately wanted to reach out for help and speak out. Within seconds, I realized that this was not my decision. Although I meant well, reporting the assault and asking for help was a decision she had to make. My role was to support her decision, no matter what she choose.
3. Being a Good Listener is Key
There will be good days and bad days. No matter what the day was like, my job was to listen to her story with an open heart. She knew that she could always lean on me when things felt dark because there would be no judging or questioning- Just listening.
4. The Best Thing You Can Do is be Present
It broke my heart to see my friend in so much pain. I wanted to help her in any way that I could. I wanted to somehow take away all of the pain. No matter how badly I wanted to, however, I realized I couldn’t. All I could do was be by her side while she learned to work through the hurt. At the end of the day, you must realize that being present is enough.
I understand that each individual is different, and each individual will have different experiences. This, however, was what I learned on my personal journey in supporting my friend.
The moment she chose to open up to me, I was immediately so proud of her. I know that sharing your story can be one of the most difficult decisions to make, and I want to continue to support her in any way that I can.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF GETTY