Sexual abuse: How to help a friend

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If you know someone who’s been sexually abused, it’s common to not know what to do or who to turn to.

It’s important to remember that you’re not responsible for making the abuse stop. You can help by being a good friend, being there for them and telling a safe adult, if you can.

What can I do if my friend was sexually abused?

Your friend has experienced something serious. People who experience sexual abuse may feel a variety of emotions such as anger, confusion, hurt and sadness. They may say negative things about themselves or seem unsure about what happened. They may also try to use things such as drugs and alcohol to cope with their feelings, which can be harmful.

Here are some things you can do to help a friend:

•    Reach out: it’s important to let your friend know that you’re worried and that you’re there for them. Try not to get upset if your friend isn’t ready to talk about the abuse. Just knowing that you care and are there for them may be enough for now.
•    Be there: listen to your friend if they’re ready to talk. You can say something like, “I know you’re going through a lot right now.” Let your friend cry. Don’t pressure your friend to talk about it and don’t ask for details about what happened.
•    Be a team: your friend may be ready to speak to a safe adult about the abuse, but too nervous to take the first step. You can offer to go with them to talk to a safe adult, or you can call Kids Help Phone together at 1-800-668-6868.
•    Read up: you may want to check out resources on sexual abuse. But prepare yourself: reading about sexual abuse can be really upsetting. Don’t force yourself to read anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Get support if you need it.
•    Share resources: you can help your friend by sharing any resources that you find or by giving them Kids Help Phone’s number: 1-800-668-6868.
•    Have fun: your friend may need a distraction from what they are going through. Doing fun activities together will help take your friend’s mind off of what happened.
•    Take care of yourself: helping a friend with something as serious as sexual abuse can be tough. Consider speaking to a parent/caregiver or safe adult about your feelings. You can also call a Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868.