Supporting a friend who has experienced sexual abuse can be a challenging but vital role. Your presence, empathy, and understanding can make a significant difference in their healing journey. It’s important to approach this situation with sensitivity, respect, and an open heart. Additionally, if you’ve experienced sexual abuse yourself, it’s crucial to manage your own emotions and triggers while offering support. In this article, we’ll discuss how to effectively support a friend who has been sexually abused, with a focus on what to say and how to maintain your own emotional wellbeing.

1. Listen and Validate

One of the most powerful things you can do for your friend is to simply listen. Create a safe space for them to share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences without judgment. Validating their emotions and letting them know that their feelings are understandable can help them feel heard and supported. You might say:

“I’m here for you, and I believe you. Your feelings are valid, and I’m here to listen whenever you’re ready to talk.”

At Outcry Winess, we say:
“We believe you. We stand with you.”


2. Show Empathy

Expressing empathy lets your friend know that you care and understand their pain. Use phrases that show you’re attuned to their emotions:

“I want you to know that I’m here to support you in any way I can.”


3. Respect Their Choices

Empower your friend by respecting their decisions. It’s important not to pressure them into taking any action they’re not ready for. Let them know you’re there to support whatever choices they make:

“You have the right to decide what’s best for you. I’ll stand by you no matter what path you choose.”


4. Avoid Blame or Judgment

Refrain from placing blame on your friend or asking intrusive questions. Your role is to provide support, not to investigate. It’s important to focus on their healing and wellbeing. They don’t need to answer any questions that make them uncomfortable.


5. Offer Practical Assistance

Practical support can make a big difference in your friend’s healing process. Offer assistance with daily tasks, transportation, or anything else they might need.


6. Encourage Professional Help

While your support is valuable, professional help is often necessary for healing from sexual abuse. Encourage your friend to seek therapy or counselling.
Reporting the crime when ready can be a huge part of the healing process. While it may seem like a difficult and challenging route, it can absolutely be the right one for a great number of sexual survivors. gently encourage them to think about seeking justice when ready. At Outcry Witness, survivors can keep an anonymous record of their experience until they are ready to report the crime. Anonymous records can be created here.


7. Self-Care for Supporters

Supporting a friend through such a difficult time can trigger your own emotions, especially if you’ve experienced similar trauma. Take care of your own wellbeing by seeking therapy or talking to a counsellor. It’s okay to set boundaries if you need to, by honestly explaining to your friend that, while you want to be there for them, you also need to think of your own wellbeing.


Find more resources here.


If you would like to create an anonymous record of an incident that happened to you, start below.