Support a friend or loved one

The prevalence of rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, stalking and other forms of intimate partner and sexual violence suggests that most of us, as men, probably know and love women and men who’ve experienced some form of abuse.  Not all of us know that we know and love these folks.

You are rightfully angry, scared, sad, frustrated…that this was done to someone you care about.  

A tremendous part of what you can do to best support your friend or loved one, is to take care of yourself regarding your responses to what was done to your friend/loved one.


For most of us, when a loved one has been harmed — especially in these ways — it triggers our protective instincts.  But leading with our anger can distract them from focusing on what they need to focus on — their own healing.  They may be distracted by worrying what we might do, or how we’re react, or attempt to help us feel less angry or sad that they’re not paying attention to their own healing.

Our friends are not responsible for taking care of us right now…

Ask them what you can do to be supportive of them.

Support them in making their own decisions .. even it if doesn’t make sense to you.

Remind them it is not their fault.

They will likely be full of self-blame and will also  probably say things that let you know they blame themselves for what was done to them.

They can’t hear often enough, it was not their fault.

Allow them to be angry.

Sometimes, they may get angry at you — you’re probably going to make mistakes in the way, and you are a lot safer for them to get angry at then the person who hurt them.  Simply allowing them to be angry can be a really powerful way of showing your support.

Your friend may not want physical contact.

One simple thing you can offer is to put your hand out, palm up, and allow them to choose to hold on. If they don’t want to be touched at the moment, they’ll notice the gesture and the meaning will be communicated just as clearly as if you had reached out and held their hand or squeezed their knee/shoulder.

Be careful of asking questions

Allow them to tell their story at their pace.

Don’t ask “why” questions.

You may not mean it, but often “why questions” are heard as “what did I do to deserve this.”  you’re well-meaning why question may be heard as blaming.

Be careful with statements such as “it’s going to be alright” or “it’s over now.”

It may take a long time for it to be “alright” again and things may get worse before they get better.

If you get stuck, here are some things you can say:

  • “I’m not totally sure how to best help you right now.  but I do know how to be here.”
  • “It wasn’t your fault.”
  • “I believe you.”

Contact the Center for Women and Families for support (24 hours)

KY (502) 581-7222   IN (812)944-6743  Toll-free (844) 237-2331