• Resolving Problems

Providing support for a friend who has been raped

Published: January 21, 2014 | Last Updated: January 21, 2014 By | 6 Replies Continue Reading
There are ways to support a friend who has been raped but they don’t always come naturally


Hi Irene,

I’m a 31-year-old female from Australia. About six months ago I was raped. I didn’t say anything to my best friend with whom I was living until I had a breakdown while we were out a few months later. She stayed out with her boyfriend while I went home (we were living together at the time).

She came home the next night, asked me a bunch of detail oriented questions and seemed upset when I didn’t want to talk about it. She then didn’t come home for a week. And never mentioned it again. When we had a brief chat, she claimed that the atmosphere in the house was negative and that’s why she wasn’t around much.

I’ve essentially been depressed for about a year. I feel like this girl and our other mutual best friend deserted me when I needed them most.

Am I over-reacting?

Signed, Allie


Hi Allie,

Rape or any other type of sexual assault can be traumatic, affecting both your emotions and your relationships in a variety of ways. It’s understandable that you weren’t able to speak to your roommate. Victims often have difficulties sharing their experiences even with close friends because of the shame, self-blame, numbness and depression commonly associated with rape.

It sounds like your friend was caught off-guard, became somewhat intrusive in her line of questioning, and didn’t know how to listen and support you when you were able to let her know what had happened to you.

She may have become very upset herself, confused about why you hadn’t shared this information earlier, and unable to realize you still might be upset. In her mind, she may have mistakenly relegated it to something that happened months ago and that was over. Realizing that her response wasn’t helpful may have caused her to clam up and become even more distant.

Given what you have experienced, in addition to a history of depression that predated the rape, it would be wise for you to seek professional help rather than to count on friends alone to help you recover from this trauma. This would not only be helpful to you but also minimize the burden and responsibility you place on friends, who may not always be up to the task. Your therapist may be helpful, too, in advising you about how to handle sensitive discussions with friends so that you improve the chances of being able to evoke their support.

The Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center has written an excellent primer called Help a Friend, that describes the ways friends can be helpful when they know a friend who has been raped.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Category: Disappointing friends, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (6)

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  1. Carol says:


    I wanted to acknowledge your sharing that you too had been raped. I am so very sorry. As I said previously in response to Allie, I can’t really imagine that there is a woman on the planet who doesn’t have a fear of being sexually assaulted. I remember when I left therapy some years ago, I told her that the only reason I thought I would return to her was if I were raped. Because if it happened to me my driving force would be to hunt down the rapist and remove them from the planet. I would need her to bring me back from the edge of insanity caused by such a ordeal. It’s my belief if driven to the brink, I have the ability to seek revenge.A feeling I have worked through many times in my life. I would certainly need someone who had the skills and ability to remain at my side as I worked through such a painful invasion in my life.

    I remember when I received my cancer diagnosis and how many people moved away from me. They weren’t close friends, but I was aware it brought up too much fear in them that they too could get cancer. I understood because I was a born “caregiver” and knew not everyone can separate their fears out in order to remain close to comfort someone. It’s very difficult to be abandoned under any circumstance when you most need a friend, its so hurtful.

    Quite obviously you are a strong person who has grown in your life even as pain and suffering accompanied you on your journey. It is true, if it doesn’t kill us, it makes us stronger. It being whatever calamity crosses our path in life. Your strength now helps many, many human beings and thank you for all your offerings of comfort on this blog.

    Best to you, Carol

    • Amy says:

      Thank you Carol. I’m also a cancer survivor (breast) and like you, it sure taught me who my friends were…and weren’t. I had one friend who had recently lost her mother to ovarian cancer and she flat out told me she couldn’t deal with my cancer. I appreciated and respected her honestly. The older I get, the more I realize most of the time, people are just doing their best.

      • Carol says:

        Hi Amy, Yes, it takes a very long time to realize we are all just simple human beings and do the best we can at the time we are presented with challenges that scare us to death. The gift for me was that I had a sister-in-law, one of five, with whom I met at age 13. She was 16 when dating one of my brothers. The first time I met her she showed up at our home with a baby skunk. That was it, she was an angel to me. You know sometimes you meet someone and it seems you’ve known each other all your life. She eventually went through cervical cancer at a time when little of known about it. I was the one who stayed close to her even though at the time I had no experience with illness, I didn’t run away. It was a time when people thought you could “catch” cancer. It was my love for her that kept me from abandoning her as many did.
        It was this “gift” in my life which eventually led me to be involved in helping those dying of AIDS. Learning to forgive is a major task in life and as you may know it takes a very long time to get why it is a necessary task in our lives. I am still working on it. Take good care, Carol

  2. Marisa says:

    So very sorry for you Allie. Sometimes friends just don’t know how to cope with the big stuff like this.

  3. Amy says:

    I’m so sorry that you were raped. I too am a rape survivor and I know how difficult recovery from trauma is.
    It’s sometimes hard for friends to know how to support us, and sometimes what’s helpful to one person isn’t helpful to someone else.
    I urge you to seek professional help to assist on your recovery. Friends simply aren’t equipped to deal with the specific help we need to overcome such a violation. Additionally, group therapy with other trauma survivors was invaluable in my healing, because those other women knew the pain I carried and understood how difficult post traumatic stress disorder is.
    I’ve found that telling people how I can best be supported is a good way of getting what I need. Not everyone was able to support me in the way I needed and while at the time that felt like a personal rejection, I later recognized that even the best of friends have limitations. At times I turned to friends when I should have turned to professionals and only after many years did I realize I asked too much of my best friend. I didn’t ask in words, but my psychological needs placed too much a strain on our relationship. We grew apart, but recently reconnected and spoke about this.
    Recovery takes time, but with the right support and hard work, you will get your life back. I wish you much healing and peace.

  4. Carol says:

    Hi Allie, I just read Irene’s reply to you. I totally agree with her suggestions to point you in a direction which will be most helpful. For many of us who have been sexually abused as children and have lived in times when there was little support for reporting sexual harassment, the fear of being assaulted or raped in always present in our lives. I was sexually harassed on the job in a school system a few years ago. When I first went to some friends who were teachers there, they suggested I let it drop as it might jeopardize my employment. I was stunned! However, I looked back at all the inappropriate acts against me all my life as a woman and went through with reporting it. It went all the way to the Superintendent who was the Human Resources person and the man was disciplined (who really knows how) and transferred to a new site. It was difficult to carry through, but I am glad I did it. I never quite trusted those so-called “friends” any longer.

    You deserve help and if there is anyone in your life who isn’t helpful, get them away from you. Find support through counseling AND find friends who know how to be there for you when you need them. I wish you time to heal and a future that includes true dedicated friends. All of us get to define the word “friend” according to our own needs and values. Take care of yourself and find help.


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