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Preface

For the sake of my friend, I want to convince/ask her to talk to her extended support group about the situation. This is a decision she has to make herself and I really think that it’d help to disclose it to her family.

I am not asking for professional help or advice. The goal is to bring this topic up, telling her what I think, and being a supportive friend.

Situation

A little while ago I was informed by my best friend that she was sexually assaulted. I was really hurt to hear this and was overcome with emotions with her; I couldn’t really communicate my thoughts at the time.

She is ashamed of what had happened and has been very discrete in who she’s told; she feels powerless about it.

After I heard about the situation I expressed great support and told her the basics (it wasn’t her fault). I also tried telling her at the time she should tell a close family member about it. They know her better than I do, and are probably more inclined and persuasive to taking action against the assault.

She was too dismissive about it though, and I wasn’t very good at communicating either because I was emotional too. She feels it was her fault and that talking about it with other people will end up making it worse.

Goals

The idea is to get her to talk to her close family about the issue and get additional help. I want to convince her that telling them is the better option (I have met them all before and know they’re great people).

I want her to feel that opening up about this will be beneficial to her future and situation; it won’t make things worse than they already are.

It is also imperative I don’t upset things further. I know she’s going through a lot right now, and I definitely don’t want to make things worse. I don’t desire bringing it up when she’s extra sensitive; ideally a time she can digest the topic.

Summary

With those goals and situation in mind, how can I ask my best friend to talk to her extended and close support group about her assault, whilst communicating that I think it will be beneficial for her to do so?

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Preface: I have some training in and experience with helping people through their trauma, and I think it is so great that you want to help your friend during a very difficult time. This answer may be long but it is a very complicated issue.

I am going to break down this answer into segments based on your question:

Talking to someone can be traumatic, even if they are supportive

The idea is to get her to talk to her close family about the issue and get additional help. I want to convince her that telling them is the better option (I have met them all before and know they’re great people)

The fact that she told you and not the people you are suggesting may be (and probably is) because she trusts you with her secret, she thinks you will deal with it in a way that she can handle right now in this moment. Wanting her to go to someone else may indicate to her that you don't want to deal with her problem (which clearly is not your intention based on how concerned you seem). You may unintentionally push her away from telling others (which is your goal) by trying to push her to tell others. This seems counter intuitive but it is a real phenomenon that happens. You seem to have done what you should have done with this, which is to suggest it when she brought it up and to be with her in her hurt and other feelings in the moment that she told you about her trauma.

It may make her feel that things are worse if she talks to people she is not prepared to talk to; SHE CHOSE YOU to open up to.

I want her to feel that opening up about this will be beneficial to her future and situation; it won’t make things worse than they already are.

People who have gone through a trauma such as your friends, often feel guilty and place blame on themselves rather than the external force that caused the trauma. Talking to anyone about it can be very difficult and the fact that she has talked to you is testament to her trust in your relationship. By allowing your friend to open up to you you have likely made her feel a great deal of positive emotions, which is what she needs right now. Try to continue to have an open dialogue with her about this when you are in a safe space (I.e. when the two of you are alone and in a place that she has been in before the trauma occurred). The simple fact that you act and are open towards her when she talks to you shows her that people in general (and by extension all of the people you are trying to get her to open up to) are going to support her in her time of need.

Follow her lead; Stay in her comfort zone.

It is also imperative I don’t upset things further. I know she’s going through a lot right now, and I definitely don’t want to make things worse. I don’t desire bringing it up when she’s extra sensitive; ideally a time she can digest the topic.

As a practitioner, I am so glad you have included this as it is extremely important to follow her lead. (this you may not like but is extremely important for your friend). Forcing someone to talk to people she is not inclined/ready to talk to is not helpful. You, or anyone on the outside of an interpersonal relationship, can never know the true balance of someone else's relationships.

Looking back on your earlier statements that you have met your friends family and they are all good people does not truly show you the relationship that your friend has with her family. They may be really great people and they may be really supportive towards your friend when/if she decides to tell them, but she hasn't told them for a reason. That reason may be that she is testing out the waters with telling you before she decided to tell others, it may also be that you are the one (or one of the very few) people in her life that she trusts with her deepest most shameful secret. Forcing your opinion (that she should tell her family) on your friend, may be very traumatic in and of itself. You pushing her to do something she is not ready to do can reopen the wounds of her original trauma, and if something like this ever happens again she may not be inclined to share the details with anyone. What you don't want is your friend to be re-victimized in any way, and having experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past is a risk factor to being abused in the future. Having no-one to talk to if she is abused in the future is clearly not something you want to have happen to your friend.

Summary:

  • Don't break the trust she placed in your friendship
  • She chose you to talk to
  • Continue to talk to her and create open dialogue with her
  • I’m glad I have (and continue) to maintain her confidence in me; hearing that if I push things it may yield negative results. I feel like I’m not as resourceful as other people; I just don’t want to let her down in anyway. I’ll continue being there for her as best I can though. Thanks for your answer. – Anilla Jan 23 at 2:11
  • 3
    I'm glad my answer was helpful to you. You may not be as resourceful as others, but that's not always what's needed. Keep up being a supporter of your friend! You're doing a great job. – Zoe Howlett Jan 23 at 2:18
  • @LaAnilla You might even be the most resourceful person in this situation though. Not in the "I know what to do" category but in the "real friend" one. Don't underestimate how much you can mean just for trying to help them! – Imus Jan 23 at 8:11
  • @Anilla, as someone who has experienced trauma (though not in this nature), having someone validate the trauma and reassure that it's not the individual's fault immensely helps. It's a small action on your part, but means the world to the individual. – Lux Claridge Feb 25 at 22:28

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