Letter From K
My question really has nothing to do with sexuality or a romantic relationship, but I have asked lots of people on what I should do, even professionals and everyone tells me that she needs to figure it out on her own or go to counseling (which she is already in). So I guess my question has to do more with being a friend!
My close friend has been raped, not only once, but twice. She is sad, depressed and emotional, as she should be in this situation. Though I wasn’t with her when she was assaulted she had the courage to tell me, but now I don’t know how to react or feel or even know what to say to her. She has heard it all before, “it gets better with time”, “don’t think about it”, “get over it”. Even her parents aren’t supportive and tell her “to get over it” and “it happens all the time” and “she isn’t the first”, which makes me angry that they say these things because now she blames herself. I know it isn’t her fault and I tell her that, but she doesn’t believe me. I try to stay optimistic for her because she isn’t even close to being optimistic for herself. She is already hurting herself mentally, and I’m scared she might physically hurt herself, she has even made the comment that she “doesn’t understand why she is alive,” which gives me the chills and makes me want cry, and I get angry with myself because I don’t know how to help her. I know that letting her know that I’m here for her is good, but I don’t know how to help her beyond that. She is an amazing friend and I feel useless and pathetic that I can’t be a good friend and help her. So, I guess my question boils down to what should I do to help her, if there is anything?
P.S. Thank you!
My primary word to you would be “counseling.” Any victim of a violent crime continues to suffer even after the assault. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other anxiety disorders and depression are very common. More importantly, the psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage continues for months and years after. There is no timeline for grief and pain. Please help your friend understand that there is no handbook to recovery; everyone does it in her/his own way. The most important thing is to have her begin therapy or counseling with a highly trained therapist. Having a safe place with a caring profession to discuss one’s fears, depression and anxiety and having someone to guide your friend in her healing process and next phase of her life is imperative. A qualified professional, especially one trained to work with victims of sexual violence, will benefit your friend immeasurably.
Also, there are many support groups for victims as well, and listening to other people tell their stories can be extremely healing. I would encourage you to assist your friend in finding both a well qualified, caring therapist and a well-established support group.
Additionally, if you think that she is in immediate danger of harming herself, please let her know that you will be contacting a professional for assistance. Suicidal thoughts, ideations or gestures should always be taken seriously. Don’t hesitate to call a hotline and the police if she is stating that she is suicidal.
Lastly, continue to be a good, supportive friend. She needs lots of gentle nurturing and understanding. With that said, however, remember that you cannot be the solitary solution to her pain. She absolutely needs professional help. All of the things that your friend is experiencing is normal for someone who has experienced such a traumatic experience, but again, an objective, nurturing therapist will provide the insight and healing wisdom she will continue to need. Other professionals that she might respect may also be included in the healing process.
Thank you for being such a wonderful friend. It is such a difficult place for you to be, and I wish both of you all of the healing power you will need to move forward in your lives!
You are a very brave, and tender friend, and you are asking the right questions. Being a friend, and caring deeply about someone isn’t always easy. There are situations in life where you are called upon to be there as a support in an area that seems to have no answers. In our male thinking world it can be very hard to face not having the answer. How can we as a culture learn to support when there are no solutions to offer? When we are given a problem that seems to have no solution our impulse is come up with one anyway, even if it doesn’t fit the problem. I believe that there are some “problems” or better yet, some life situations that don’t have a clear answer. I believe if we can stop looking for a solution for these life situations we might find the silver lining, a sliver of peace at the end of the road.
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut, plug and play answer to you question, although there are great tools you can use. I agree with everything Penny offered in ways of support. You mentioned that your friend is already in therapy, is she working with someone who she respects and feels safe with? If not, you could encourage her to seek a better-suited person for her.
I would also encourage you to look at what fears are being triggered in you through this event that you could learn and grow from. I believe that by better understanding how her assault is making you feel, you will better be able to be present with her and supportive to her through this process. You might consider working with a coach or therapist through this as well; it can be a heave load to carry another’s pain. Like Penny said, suicidal thoughts, ideations or gestures should always be taken seriously. If that is something you are faced with, having your own support group in place is hugely important. So often we caregivers forget to care for ourselves. I know from experience, if we stop caring for ourselves for too long we stop being able to care for others.
As Penny said there is no timeline for grief and pain. I have found in my life that old wounds will come up years after their infliction and I will have to move through my pain and fear with a new person, in a new way, all over again. I don’t know that I have ever “gotten over” anything that has happened to me, rather I have moved through different emotions, needs, and feelings around the situation. Life is like the ocean, waves keep coming in, sometimes they are soft and lapping at the shore, and sometimes they come crashing down with great strength and force. As a friend be aware of her waves and know that throughout your life they will continue to crash every once in a while. If you can love her through that, and hold the space for her crashing, still caring for yourself and your needs, I believe you have succeeded as a friend.
My love and compassion to both of you on the journey,