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10 Ways to be a Good Friend when She says “Me Too” | Walking with a Friend through Sexual Abuse

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#metoo is raising awareness of the epidemic of sexual abuse. But awareness alone doesn't heal. Learn how you can be a good friend when she says me too.

#metoo is raising awareness of the epidemic of sexual abuse. But awareness alone doesn’t heal. Learn how you can be a good friend when she says “me too”.

When we were nineteen my friend started having memories, flash backs, of her childhood. These memories were not very welcome as they brought with them pain, confusion, and shame. All of which were already there, but didn’t have a name. As she began to piece together these memories with what she already knew of her childhood, she began to realize and remember that she had been repeatedly molested around the time she was six years old. She was brave enough to trust her story to me and together we started figuring out how to help her heal. How to set her free from that shame. And how to integrate this newly remembered reality into her story.

Current statistics say that 1 in 4 women in the US have experienced sexual abuse. And that doesn’t even begin to include the number of women who have experienced sexual harassment and other more “minor” aggressions that our society tends to brush off as “normal”. The likelihood that sexual abuse is part of the story for you or for a woman you call friend is sadly very high. So what do you do when a friend confides in you that they have been abused? What do you do if you yourself have been abused?

While each situation is unique and some situations will warrant the need for medical care or police involvement due to their recency, here are some things you can do or say to be a good friend to someone who has experienced sexual abuse.

1. Tell her your believe her: One of the major struggles for survivors of sexual abuse is that they are afraid no one will believe them, they are afraid people will think they are crazy, they are afraid no one will legitimize what they have been through. Saying I believe you helps undo all these fears. Saying I believe you builds a bridge of trust that is vital if you are going to be a good friend.

2. Do not minimize: No matter how small what she went through may seem to you, it was devastating to her. Do not minimize her experience or reflect that at least “insert something worse that could have happened here” didn’t happen. Going along with this, is do not tell her you understand, or that you know how she feels. Even if you have an experience of sexual abuse in your story too, your experience is different than hers. The time will come when telling your story may be helpful, but for now, all she needs to know is that you care. It’s about her story, her experience right now, not yours.

3. Let her decide: Now is not the time to take over and make decisions for her. Now is not the time to tell her what to do. She needs to know she is in control and gets to make the decisions about her. If you think she should file a police report and she disagrees, her decision is what you go with. You should encourage her to do the hard but healthy things like seek medical attention or file a police report, but do not try to force or control her. Be supportive and let her know that no matter what she decides you are there to help in whatever way she asks.

4. Be respectful of her story: Don’t ask for more details. Don’t discuss this without her present and without her approval. This is a case where your husband, boyfriend, mom, best friend, and whoever else you still tell everything does not need to know. Let her tell her story on her terms and to whom she feels safe to tell it. (Which I did with mentioning my friend in this blog) She also doesn’t owe you her story. If she doesn’t want to discuss what happened, she doesn’t have to.

5. Don’t be afraid of tears: 
or anger, or whatever other emotion she is feeling or not feeling about it all. She needs to feel the freedom to feel. Be honored that she feels safe to show you how she is feeling.

6. Be available: This is especially true of the twenty-four hours following her disclosing her abuse to you. Without being intrusive, text or call to check in on her. If she’s not reaching out still make sure she knows she is not alone and that you are available whenever she does need you.

7. Be a voice of truth: Remind her that it is not her fault, she did not ask for it, she did not deserve it, she is not dirty, she is not tainted, she is not damaged goods. This was not God’s plan for her. His plans for us are good and sexual abuse flies in the face of the beauty and good He intends for us.

8. Encourage her towards help: While I was able to be supportive to my friend and was the first person she disclosed her experience to, I was not her counselor. Ultimately the help of an inner healing counselor, not just a compassionate friend, was the help that really got her the freedom and healing she needed.

9. Be patient: This process of healing is going to take time. Do not rush her. Do not give up on her. Be patient and allow her all the time she needs.

10. Educate yourself: This is a preemptive step so that you are ready when a friend comes to you with a story of abuse. Know the resources available in your area. Read helpful books like “Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb that can help you better understand sexual abuse and how to be a good friend. And get the healing you may need from your own story, if you haven’t dealt with your own story of abuse you may feel triggered by someone else’s and suddenly overwhelmed by your own experience.

This post was originally shared on Serenity’s Steps.

#metoo is raising awareness of the epidemic of sexual abuse. But awareness alone doesn't heal. Learn how you can be a good friend when she says me too.

 

19 Responses to “10 Ways to be a Good Friend when She says “Me Too” | Walking with a Friend through Sexual Abuse

  • Such an important conversation to have. Great points to help those who do not share the experience.

  • This is such a great blog on how to approach such a sensitive and terrifying situation. Great tips on how to walk with a friend through sexual abuse and thank you so much for your transparency.

  • Lisa Kingsbury
    1 month ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s so important for us to know how to be a supportive ally for those brave enough to share their stories.

  • Being a good friend to someone who has experienced sexual abuse is such an important topic to discuss. Thank you for sharing this.

  • ‘Be a voice of truth’ really hit home for me. Thank you for writing this from someone who was still not ready to say ‘Me Too’ to my family & friends.

    • *Big hug*! So sad that family and friends are often the hardest to tell. Praying you find good ones that respond well when the day comes you are ready!

  • Thank you for sharing your perspective. <3 This is such an important topic to speak about. Bringing awareness on how to be a friend to those who've had to say "me too" with sexual abuse is needed.

  • Christina
    1 month ago

    You’re an amazing friend and an even more amazing human for sharing this so others can learn compassion as well. Great post!

  • This is really such a great blog!! Sexual abuse is a very rough subject for so many women. I can’t even begin to imagine what she was going through but having an amazing friend such as you proves all the more there is hope

  • wow not only is this a great post but it shows just how much of a great friend you must be, to not only listen to those claiming Me Too but to stand with them and show your support in such a way!

  • Maria Newman
    1 month ago

    This is such important timing for this post. I think it is obvious from the many many “me too” statuses that we all know someone (or are someone) that has been affected by sexual abuse. It is important that we talk about how we can be a friend to those that need one now and in the future.

  • Elizabeth
    1 month ago

    Such a hard but necessary blog post to share. Thank you for offering up some recommended words and actions to help take with our loved ones that have experienced sexual abuse.

  • Laura Pearson
    1 month ago

    Thank you for talking about subjects that need to be in the open. I feel these tips are also great for people who have been in situations of domestic violence. It is profound that in 2017 the statistics of sexual abuse is still so prevalent. It must stop!! And I wish the campaign for “I Did” would have been as wide spread as “Me Too”. Men must do better.

  • Mercedes
    1 month ago

    Thanks for sharing these wise words. We need to be there for people if they reach out for help to heal after incredible trauma.

  • Emily Moore
    1 month ago

    This is a powerful article, and I’m really glad that you shared this. I’s really wonderful that you were able to be there for your friend when she needed someone the most. Some of the stories coming out are just horrifying, and it breaks my heart to know how many women have suffered in silence over so many years. Thank you so much for your advice on how to approach the topic of sexual abuse with someone who needs help. This article is especially helpful for someone like me who has never had an experience like this, and would probably struggle knowing how to comfort someone in this position. Thank you for sharing!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! Your advice for approaching the topic of abuse with someone is spot on – especially the advice about not minimizing the situation. Almost all of my female friends have encountered someone who has shrugged off their assault or questioned its validity when telling their stories. It’s already so difficult to open up about these traumatic events. Hopefully this will help more people feel better equipped when someone shares their story with them.

  • Lacey Fincher
    1 month ago

    These are all such important tips, especially as the #metoo campaign is really empowering more people to come forward, and speak about their experiences and hurt. Thank you so much for this post.

  • I just recently became aware of the me too hashtag and what it stood for. A friend of mine posted about it on Facebook, and a friend of hers thanked her. My friend then had the courage to share her story, in the hopes of helping someone else. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • It’s never easy to figure out what to do or say when a friend goes through such a tough time! This is such great advice, so disheartening to see/hear that most everyone I know says ‘me too’, including myself!

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