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Reader Been There

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My friend was raped, but she's acting happy. How can I help?

The Reader asked:

Any thoughts on what I should do to help her?

Reader "Been There" Responds:

It's great that you're concerned about your friend and want to help her. The key thing to do is not to try to force her to do anything. She's been forced in a devastating way already, when her boyfriend raped her.

When a person is raped, there are huge feelings of loss of control. About the worst thing a friend can do for someone after she's been raped is to insist that she do certain things or feel a certain way.

Help Her Feel in Control Again

Instead, help her feel in control again. Help her make her own choices. Build her sense of empowerment and control by helping her to do the things she wants to do. Don't try to take over for her - that already happened in the worst way when her boyfriend took her over by raping her.

The best and only thing you can do for your friend is to listen to her non-judgementally, be there for her if and when she wants you to, and offer support and advice if asked.

There is NO Normal Response

Keep in mind that there's no such thing as a "normal" response after being raped or sexually abused. Different people respond differently. In each case, their reaction is a "normal" response to a completely abnormal occurrence. Try not to judge whether her reactions a day after being raped was "normal" or not. She might actually feel fine, or might not want to deal with her feelings about being raped. If she breaks down in three months, or becomes depressed, or gains weight,or continues to act like her "old self", whatever, it's a normal response.

After I Was Raped

After I was raped, a good friend of mine made a really good point to me about getting help even though I felt fine. She said, "you go to the dentist for a check-up, even though you don't have a toothache. You do it to make sure you're really okay, and to prevent problems from happening later on. Even though you feel fine now, it might be a good idea to see a counselor soon. Consider it a preventative measure, like getting a dental check-up."

That made sense to me. I saw a counselor once, and decided to see her some more. But it was my decision, within my control. You might give the same suggestion to your friend. Good luck to you and to her.

Been There



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