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raped !!

(31 Posts)
atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 10:36:41

A woman I know has just told me she was raped about 15 years ago! she was sitting at her desk looking very tearful and I asked her what was wrong and she burst into tears and I took her to my office and listened. A family friend raped her when she was very weak and vulnerable, having just come out of hospital and after being on a life support machine. He wasstaying at their house and had taken the kids to school and had retuned to the house and he raped her. She hasnt been able to tell her H. the only people who know are a friend of hers, her therapist, her doctor and now ME. I feel so sorry for her and didnt really know what to say to her. I blubbed on about therapy which shes been having for years for it and asked her if maybe now she could find it in herself to speak to her H, so that she was getting a little more support, but she fears that he will try to harm this man. I didnt know what to say or do, I felt completely useless. Just wondered if anyone has any suggestions how I can help her. Shes not a close friend or anything, just a work colleague, but people at work tend to come to me with their troubles! Im so shocked, what an awful thing to be living with.

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 10:59:04


mrsmortenharket Fri 03-Jul-09 11:00:43

sad oh no. do you think she could go to the police?

Disenchanted3 Fri 03-Jul-09 11:00:57

Shit, thats awful, poor woman

Sorry, hope someone with some advice will come along x

Mamazon Fri 03-Jul-09 11:01:40

if hse is already receiving therapy maybe the only help she wants is just someone to listen.

its a terrible burden to carry around such a secret, to hide it from her husband must be exhausting. im sure she feels a mix of releif at having told but also guilt at telling you and burdening you with this problem.

i would make sure she knows you are glad she felt comfortable enough to tell you ( if you are of course) and that you will be there to support her in whatever way she needs.

basically all you can do is follow her lead.

arolf Fri 03-Jul-09 11:02:31

just let her talk - that's what helped me. let her know you'll listen whenever she wants to talk about it, and ask her if there is anything you can do for her.

I always found being able to talk about it with friends was helpful, and it helped me deal with the situation much much better than I had been when it was just a secret gnawing away at me.

hope she is ok, and it sounds like you are doing the right thing just by being there.

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 11:05:42

mrsmortenharket - i think she doesnt want to involve the police otherwise im sure she would have done so at the time.
I did say I would be there for her if she wnted to talk anytime. Its just a shock isnt it. Dont expect someone to drop that on you on a friday morning!
thanks for your replies, supose I just have to let her know again that im here if she needs me.

arolf Fri 03-Jul-09 11:08:48

FWIW I was told that involving the police is pretty much pointless unless you have some physical evidence - it took me 6 years to pluck up the courage to tell anyone what had happened to me (then-boyfriend raped me whilst we were on a residential course away from our families, both of us only 17...), and the advice was basically to learn to live with it. The police couldn't do much if it's one person's word against anothers.

mrsmortenharket Fri 03-Jul-09 11:08:52

maybe it is the best you can do for her at the moment, just be there for her? it is a shock though isn't it?

mollyroger Fri 03-Jul-09 11:11:23

don't advise her, don't make her feel judged, let her know that she can trust you and that she can talk to you - and that you will listen. But be strong with your boundaries.(ie, let her know when you have time to listen iyswim, given you are at work)
You could also let her know about various helplines, where she can get extra support

national helpline to be getting on with

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 11:11:51

arolf - sorry to hear that, it must be such a burden, im not sure what I would do in that situation, cant imagine actually. so sorry for all those people out there who are living with this hell.

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 11:15:09

thanks mollyroger.

HecatesTwopenceworth Fri 03-Jul-09 11:17:34

The best way to help her is to advise her to find someone she trusts, to talk to - a counsellor. Someone who is trained to help women with this.

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 11:40:36

she is already receiving counselling and has been for some years apparently.

Goober Fri 03-Jul-09 11:42:43

She just needs a friend. You can be it. Listen, support, hug.
That is all.

QuintessentialShadow Fri 03-Jul-09 11:45:35

She is already getting councelling, so I dont think you can do much more to help than listen to her. Preferably outside your working hours so you dont get in trouble for chatting with colleagues when you should be working.

(Your colleague might not be in the right frame of mind to stand up for you, as it might jeopardise her own position, if you are tackled on it.)

mollyroger Fri 03-Jul-09 11:47:36

This information is taken from a leaflet provided by the Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service, UK.

Don't Criticize
Don't criticize a survivor of abuse for being where they were at the time, for not resisting more or screaming, for not talking about it earlier or for anything else. Anybody, anywhere, can be a victim of abuse, regardless of age, gender, looks, dress and so on. Regardless of circumstances "no" means "no," and nobody deserves to be raped.

Myths about women "asking for it" or men being "unable to help themselves" create a burden of guilt on the survivor in the first place, and they may already feel partly responsible. Any criticism of their handling of the situation, either during the attack or afterwards, simply adds to that guilt, and it is important that the blame is placed firmly where it belongs - with the person who committed the assault.

Do Understand
Listen and try to understand why they were unable to prevent it from happening. They may have been frozen by fear, or have been unsuspecting and trusting, or they may have been threatened or physically attacked and may have realistically feared worse would happen if they resisted. You wouldn't expect somebody who has been mugged to have been able to prevent it.

Do Listen to their Reasons
Listen to their reasons if they didn't tell you immediately. They may have been scared of your reaction, they may have felt ashamed or embarrassed to tell you, they may have been trying to protect you from the upset of knowing, they may have chosen to think it through first, or to talk to people less personally involved.

Do Help Distinguish Between "If Only's" and "Guilt"
Try to help them distinguish between wishing it had never happened, in terms of wishing they hadn't been there at that time, or said what they said, and so on, and it being their fault it happened. Everyone has a basic human right to be free from threat, harassment or attack.

Don't Over-Simplify
Try not to over-simplify what has happened by saying it isn't very bad, "never mind", "forget it". Let them say exactly how they feel and allow them to work through it in their own time.

Do Reassure Them That You Are There
Reassure them that you will give them your support, and allow them time to work it through. Make it clear that you will be around to talk to now or in the future, and help them to trust you not to push them into expressing things before they are ready. remember not to pressure them into anything they don't feel ready for.

Don't Take Control
Sexual abuse makes people feel invaded, changed and out of control; try to imagine how this feels, and try to do what helps them rather than what makes you feel better - listen to what they want. It is crucial that they be able to make their own decisions and regain influence over what happens in their lives in order to rebuild trust and strength.

It is common for loved ones, themselves distressed, to step in and be too protective, or to treat them differently and make their decisions for them, all of which can add to their frustration. Ask them how they want to be helped, and in trying to do this you'll help rebuild their trust.

Do Help Them to Feel Safe
Help them to feel safe and take part in things again, but only at their own pace and in ways they feel are best. Knowing they can talk to you about feeling unsafe and can ask for your companionship when they need it, will be reassuring as they tackle difficult things.
Don't Frighten Them
Don't come up behind them or touch them unexpectedly or in a way that reminds them of the assault. They may want to be held and comforted, or prefer not to be until they feel safe - ask what feels best.

Seek support for yourself from someone who may understand - feeling guilt or pressure will only make it harder for them to work through the experience.

Reassure them that you know it isn't their fault, and if you do feel anger, make it very clear that it is directed towards those who committed the assault and not them. Remember that threatening to take the law into your own hands is not helpful; it can make them feel even more unsafe, make them distressed to see you so upset, or could worry them that you'll get into trouble or get hurt. It can also make them feel out of control of the situation and that their needs are again being ignored.

You may need to ask friends or other trusted people for support and ideas about how to deal with your own understandable feelings of anger and frustration.

Don't Blame Yourself
Don't blame yourself for what happened because you weren't with them, hadn't protected them, etc. The responsibility lies solely with those who committed the assault.

Don't Speak for Them
Don't speak for them unless they specifically want you to. When friends, the police, the doctor, etc., ask how they feel, always let them speak for themselves. If they want to talk to someone who isn't emotionally close to them, make it clear that they can choose whether or not you are with them.

Do Encourage a Medical Checkup
Remember that whether or not they choose to report the assault to the police, they should have a medical check-up, and may need pregnancy, HIV or STD tests, although again, remember not to put pressure on them.

Don't Expect Too Much of Yourself
They may need different types of support from different people. No one person can do everything for them. It can help you too to know that they can go to other people for support if they choose to. Sometimes, a counselor or trusted friends and colleagues can help in ways those closest to them can't.

You won't be able to magically make everything better straight away, but by showing them that you believe them, that you don't blame them, and that you want to help them regain control of their life, by listening, respecting their feelings and views and showing you care, you can make a great difference and help them begin to heal aga

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 11:47:47

its ok at work im a more senior position whereby I can be seen to be talking to anyone really. no probs there.
thanks for your suggestions tho.

mollyroger Fri 03-Jul-09 11:48:03

sorry, didn't realise that was going to be so long.

QuintessentialShadow Fri 03-Jul-09 11:49:31

Are you more senior to her?

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 11:51:37

thanks so much mollyroger, thats very hepful.

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 11:52:15

yes I am more senior

mollyroger Fri 03-Jul-09 11:53:27

the bit about making sure you have some support too is very important, by the way. But obviosuly while respecting her confidentitality.

atterual Fri 03-Jul-09 11:59:44

I dont feel that I need support atm. All I feel is shocked and sorry for her. I dont think that she will probably ever speak to me again about this, I think it was just that I was there when she was having a very bad moment and I was that listneing ear that she needed at the time. I will of course make sure she knows she can always come to me, but I get the feeling that she probably wont. she seems a very private person. Like I said I dont know her very well, shes just a colleague.

QuintessentialShadow Fri 03-Jul-09 12:00:23

not that I am heartless, but maybe try stay out of it a little. You caught her tearful in work, you asked her why. She told you why. Perhaps not because you are her personal friend, but because you are senior to her in work. She might not or expect you to do much more than you have done. You are appraised of her situation. Think about it from a professional perspective. A subordinate in work is going through a tough time. What would this mean in terms of times off, and being otherwise shown especial concern regards her duties and whether she can fulfill them or not, and what you can do to help her from a work related perspective.

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