If you are suspecting that your friend is experiencing some form of abuse, be it physical, emotional or sexual, there are things you can do to help. Do not just assume it will work itself out because it usually just gets worse with time.
Things that might be keeping you from saying something
- The violence can’t really be that serious: Domestic violence includes threats, pushing, slapping, choking, sexual assault and assault with weapons. You may not see any bruises, but that doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there.
- My friend must be doing something to provoke it: A victim of domestic violence should never be to blame for another person’s choice to use violence against them. Problems exist in any relationship and violence is never excusable.
- If its so bad, they should just leave: For most people, the decision to leave a relationship is not easy. You do not know or understand the emotional ties your friend may have to their abuser. Perhaps your friend doesn’t fully understand what is happening to them or know of any available resources to better her understanding of the violence that is occurring. Perhaps your friend has tried to leave but violence caused them to fear for the safety of themselves, loved ones or pets. You never know exactly why someone stays, and it is not your job to judge.
- It’s none of my business: Violence is not a “personal problem”, violence is a crime with serious repercussions for your friend, your friends partner and your entire community.
- I am friends with the abuser too: Many abusers are not violent in other relationships and can be pleasant in social situations yet be extremely violent in private.
- The abuser must be sick: Using violence and abuse is a learned behavior, not a mental illness. People who use violence and abuse to control their partners choose to do that. Viewing an abuser as sick, excuses them from taking responsibility.
- The abuser just has a drinking problem: Alcohol or drug use may intensify violent behavior, but it does not cause violence or abuse.
- It’s their fault for caring about someone who abuses them: Chances are, the abuser is not always abusive. The abuser may show remorse for the abuse after it happens and your friend may hope that they can actually change. Their relationship probably involves good times, bad times and in-between times.
- If my friend wanted help, they would ask for it: Your friend may not feel comfortable confiding in you, or anyone else for that matter. You never know why someone would keep this quiet, so confronting them and letting them know you’re there for them could be a huge relief for them to finally be able to talk to someone about what is going on.
What you can do to help
- Say something: Tell your friend that you care and are willing to listen. Let them know you won’t be judgmental. Let them feel safe with you, because they probably don’t feel safe in other areas of their life.
- Be informed: You’re obviously already trying to become informed by reading this information, but find out all the facts you can about domestic violence. We have tons of information under the “Get Help” tab on our website, and other resources under our “Resources” tab.
- Guide your friend to community services: Let your friend know about services in your community, like us at C.A.R.E. Show them programs that involve safety, advocacy, support, legal information, and other needed services. Let your friend know that they aren’t alone and that if he/she doesn’t want to discuss the abuse with you, they can contact a victim advocate at 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465 and everything they say is confidential.
- If your friend decides to end the relationship: Help them to develop a safety plan. You may want to refer them to our hotline numbers 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465 so they can talk to an advocate who can help them create a safety plan that best suites their situation.
- Build your friend up: Let them know their potential and good qualities. You don’t know how beat down they have been from their abuser, they do not need anyone else pointing out their so-called flaws. Give emotional support.
- Be patient: Reaching out for help takes a lot of courage. There are many factors that may delay your friend from seeking help or leaving their abuser. There is also a good chance if they leave their abuser, they may go back. Please be patient and supportive despite how frustrating it may become. Your friend needs you.
How to help a victim of Rape
- Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual contact. Sexual violence includes such crimes as rape, incest, statutory sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual assault or any sexual contact without consent.
- Many people want to help friends and family members who have been hurt, but sometimes they do not know what to say or do. Unless you have been the victim of sexual violence, you may not be able to understand a victim’s feelings. It is important to remember not all victims react or feel the same.
- You are likely to experience some strong reactions when you learn of a friend or loved one’s assault. Reactions or feelings of anger, rage, shock, revenge, desire to fix it, to move on, and feelings of helplessness are all common.
- For victims to become survivors, they need empathy, understanding and perhaps a listening ear. Do not be judgmental or ask victims why they did a certain thing, wore a certain item of clothing or went to a certain place. Remember no one deserves or asks to be raped.
What do victims feel?
It is important for you not to judge a victim’s response. One victim may react very emotionally and another may be extremely calm. No matter how victims react, their emotions are normal and okay.
Some common and immediate reactions to sexual victimization:
- laughter due to shock
- feelings of fear
- shame and anger
- feelings of guilt and helplessness
- abrupt mood changes
Over time, these immediate reactions may fade, but other emotions and difficulties may continue for sometime throughout a victim’s recovery.
Long-term reactions to sexual victimization:
- fear of being alone
- fear of the dark
- trouble sleeping
- trouble concentrating
- fear and dislike of sex
- trust issues in relationships
- flashbacks of the assault
- drug or alcohol abuse
- engaging in high risk behaviors
- suicidal thoughts
How you can help a victim of rape?
- Remain calm. You might feel shock or rage, but expressing these emotions to the victims may cause more trauma.
- Encourage medical attention. Care is important because there may be internal injuries that are not obvious, or the victim may have been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. Victims are entitled to a forensic medical exam, whether or not they decide to report the assault.
- Give the victim control. All control has been stripped from the victim during the assault. Allow the victim to make decisions about what steps to take next.
- Maintain confidentiality. Let the victim decide who will know about the assault.
- Let the victim express feeling. Listen without adding your opinions. If the victim wishes to remain silent, do not force discussion. Say you will be there to listen always.
- Believe the victim. Make it clear to the victim you believe the assault happened and that the assault is the fault of the abuser, NOT the victim.
- Encourage counseling. Give the victim our hotline numbers, 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465, but let the victim decide whether to call or not.
- Seek help for yourself. Don’t ignore your own feelings, even though you may not be able to share all of them with the victim now. You can also call our hotlines at 941-627-6000 or 941-475-6465, to speak to someone who will listen and remain confidential.
Sexual assault statistics calculated by RAINN
RAINN stands for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network and according to their data:
Victims of sexual assault are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.