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Relationships
[ Friendship | Sexuality | Articles ]

Friendship

Jim's ability to hear me, to ask questions, and to respond had deep roots. Perhaps that is why he was able to offer me, from that day forward, exactly what I needed: a male friend willing to listen and not wish me silent; respect for what I had brought to the situation rather than a judgment about its occurrence; a loving tolerance for how I'd been harmed and an ability to appreciate the new facets in me that resulted.
-Patricia Weaver Francisco


Talking about sexual assault is one of the most difficult things a survivor must do in order to heal. If a friend comes to you and tells you that she has been sexually assaulted, she is trusting you. Remember that your friend had her trust destroyed when she was raped. When a friend trusts you with her story, you have the opportunity to become an invaluable resource in her healing journey. Here are some suggestions for helping a friend who has been sexually assaulted.

Always treat a survivor's story as the absolute truth. Remember that the silence of survivors is in many cases caused by a fear that no one will believe their story.

Listen. It is very tempting, when listening to a terrifying story, to interrupt, ask questions, or demand details. Don't do this. A survivor needs to be heard at her own pace. Allow her to tell as little or as much of her story as she feels comfortable telling you.

Let her know that it wasn't her fault. Most rape victims believe that they were responsible for what happened to them. The most important thing that people have said to me after I told them my story is, "It wasn't your fault."

Don't question her methods of survival. Rape is a life threatening situation. Your friend survived. It does not matter what she did to do that.

Let her know that you are willing to talk to her about it again if that is what she needs. Remember that the first time she tells you about the rape is not the last time she will need to talk about it.

Some survivors really need a hug. Some survivors don't want to be touched. The best way to approach the situation is to ask her if she wants a hug.

Be there for her, especially in the days following her telling you her story. Survivors are often worried that they will alienate people with their story. Give her a call the next day to see how she's doing (although you might not want to bring up the rape, because you want to let her talk about it at her own pace). Telling her that you're glad she talked to you is a good thing to do.

Links

When a friend is raped... - When you find out a friend has been victimized many thoughts will fly through your mind. You may experience conflicting emotions on needs to be done. You may feel lonely and overwhelmed - especially at first. This page is written in an attempt to help you deal with the situation.

A Dozen Ways to Help Your Loved One - Suggestions for helping a survivor on their road to recovery.

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Sexuality

My willingness to give up my Victims Anonymous badge followed my realizing that the withholding of passion and pleasure, from myself, was a form of self-violence.
-Tori Amos

The most important thing in your quest for sexual healing is a partner whom you trust completely. Rape, in many ways, is a violation of trust. Especially for those who have been raped by a boyfriend or friend, it is very hard to learn to trust again.

If it is at all possible for you to talk to your partner about what happened to you, do it. If your partner is right for you, he will be supportive. By talking to your partner, you are opening the door to future conversations which will be beneficial to you. You are also preparing your partner for the journey the two of you will have to make to help you heal. Being sexual with your partner can bring fear and flashbacks, and it is important that the two of you can talk about how you are feeling.

Go at your own pace. There is no time table that is right for every survivor. It will be different for everyone. Don't feel bad if it takes you a long time to feel comfortable being intimate with your partner. You were put in a terrifying position when you were raped and although rape and sex are by no means equivalent, you will in some ways be putting yourself in the same position. You have to learn that sex is not rape and that can take a very long time.

If you have flashbacks when you are intimate with your partner, the best thing to do is have him or her hold you and for the two of you to talk about it. It is not your fault that you get scared during sex and you need to understand that you can and should stop when you are scared and talk to your partner about it. Have your partner hold you if you want to be held and talk to you to help you calm down. Talk about what happened and try to think of ways to make yourself feel safer next time.

It may also be useful for you to be intimate with the lights on, because being able to see your partner can be reassuring. Talking to your partner while you are being intimate can also help. Tori says, "Eric has to say 'I am not the man that raped you and I will not accept that concept.' When we make love he'll leave the lights on and say 'look at me, what's my name?' and I'll say his name. And even more importantly, he'll say 'what am I doing? I'm [having sex with] you, say it." "And I'd try to say 'you're [having sex with] me'. Then he'll hold me as tightly as he can and say 'And I love you, I adore you, I treasure you'. So I am healing that way," (Tori Amos, discussing her sexual relationship with her (now ex) boyfriend, Eric).

Please understand that sexual healing is very important, but it should be one of the last stops on your healing journey. You need to understand that what happened to you was not your fault, that you are a beautiful person and that you can trust people, before you attempt to engage in a sexual relationship. It is possible to have a healthy sexual relationship with your partner after sexual assault, but you need to take care of yourself first. You need to take things slowly and make sure that you are okay. I truly believe that it is possible for you to have a healthy sexual relationship with the right partner.

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