What To Do When a Friend is Sexually Assaulted

You just received a call that is difficult to process. Your good friend has been sexually assaulted. What do you do? What do you say?

Well first of all, just listen – without any judgment. Your friend is understandably distressed emotionally. He/She will most likely waver between shame, guilt and self-blame through anger and frustration at the perpetrator who has just inflicted a great violation.

Let your friend know that all these emotions are valid and normal considering the circumstances.

What your friend does NOT need to hear is any comments or questions about what he/she was wearing, drinking or doing at the time of the attack.

Has your friend gone to the ER or contacted the police? If not, this would be a good time to offer to take him or her. But be careful not to insist. Your friend has just experienced a major and personal ordeal. Not all victims are ready to face this.

Offer to visit your friend and provide comfort, reinforcing the message that it is not her/his fault. Might you be able to be on call anytime your friend needs to talk? If so, then say so. In addition, share with your friend that there are many resources to help.

Whether it is a hotline, professional help, etc., let her/him know you are available to assist in finding numbers and addresses.


When helping your friend starts to weigh you down:

“Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another. Its symptoms mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Accordingly, individuals affected by secondary stress may find themselves re-experiencing personal trauma or notice an increase in arousal and avoidance reactions related to the indirect trauma exposure. They may also experience changes in memory and perception; alterations in their sense of self-efficacy; a depletion of personal resources; and disruption in their perceptions of safety, trust, and independence.” [1]

Symptoms of STS include the following:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Avoidance
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anger/Cynicism
  • Sleep issues
  • Illness and physical ailments
  • Fear
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Disconnection
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Loss of creativity
  • Inability to listen or focus
  • Lack of self-care

Who is at risk for STS?

Mainly professionals who work directly with traumatized victims (especially children). Risk does seem to be greater among women and individuals who have high empathetic natures. In addition, those who have unresolved personal traumas and are helping others with their suffering.

I have been in training to become a Victim’s Advocate for Alternatives to Violence and we had a specific night devoted to the discussion of STS and what to do when and if we begin to experience it. Self-Care is continually discussed throughout every training we took and understandably so.

Self-care can be something you might suggest to your friend, but it is highly recommended that you practice it as well when helping a friend who has suffered the ordeal of Sexual Assault. Some suggestions were:

  • Coloring- we did a whole lot of coloring as we learned about domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and human trafficking.
  • Talking to someone when we need to.
  • Bubble baths
  • Bike rides
  • Aromatherapy
  • Setting boundaries
  • Reading inspirational books
  • Walking in nature
  • Going to the salon
  • Eating right
  • Mindfulness
  • Fitness programs
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

So if you find yourself being called on by a friend in desperate need, do all you can to be there for him/her. But remember to take care of yourself, lest you find yourself harming the two of you due to self-neglect.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the theme for 2016 is “Prevention”. Click here for more information.

  1. http://www.nctsn.org/resources/topics/secondary-traumatic-stress


Why I Stopped Being So Damn Independent


Would you believe this all happened while playing on the monkey bars?  I made this observation at six-years old: I already know more than my mom and my teachers so they had nothing to offer me. Therefore, I would figure this life thing out for myself.

I had no idea how I would go about this and not surprisingly made many errors along the way.  Well into my adulthood I might add…

“Sometimes I wonder where I’ve been Who I am, do I fit in * I may not win but I can’t be thrown * Out here on my own, out here on my own” – GORE, LESLEY / GORE, MICHAEL

This song was one of many theme songs I claimed for my life. Never feeling like the sharpest knife in the drawer, I counted on my survival instincts. Growing up in a home where we all were just trying to survive another day, my siblings and I were always at each other’s throats. Yet we were there for each other when shit came down. A typical dysfunctional family. I am so grateful for all my siblings today.

So what happens when you become too independent?

  • You get good at running away. I have hurt many people by doing just this. No excuses or rationalizations can ever change that. It’s painful to know the pain I have caused others. What I can do today is make my amends and stop behaving in this manner.
  • You avoid fully engaging in commitment. No vulnerability. Sounds nice, yeah? No. You miss out on the full experience of life. Good and bad.
  • You remain alone and on your own. This was a great desire for me. The problem? I have family. I have friends. They love me. They want me to be present in their lives. Today, I want the same thing.

Being so damn independent kept me strong insomuch as it kept others from hurting me. Being self-reliant meant I did not depend on anyone for anything. This is not a realistic way to live.  In my earlier writing “Independent yet Interdependent” I  remarked on our Universal connection. We are all in need of each other, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.


What happens when you become interdependent?

  • You will experience freedom! When I learned  to ask for help, I was relieved of all the pain I kept inside. No longer did I have to hide my truest self.
  • You are actually being of service by letting someone else be of service to you. Another paradox, I know. What can I say? The Universe is full of them.
  • You can make someone’s day!  When you pick up the phone to talk to someone, you are essentially asking for their help in listening to your words.
    • I remember the first time I called my mom for advice. I was in my late thirties. She exclaimed “Oh mija, I am so happy you are asking for my help”. I realized she always wanted to be there for me. I just wouldn’t let her. Since then, my mother has helped me with countless issues. I am thankful for every one of them.

If you haven’t asked for someone’s help lately, I highly encourage you to do so ASAP!

It feels good to know that I don’t know it all. That I can reach out to others and ask them to share their knowledge with me.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13

Let’s interdependence together! Stay Blissful My Friends – E

Sunday Shot of Bliss IV.

Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. - Casey Kasem
Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. – Casey Kasem

When I was the little girl, I used to look up to stars and wish myself away from the violence and the chaos of my life. It helped to look up and away from all of the gravel and asphalt. Away from the angry people. Away from that man who used to pull a gun on me on my way to school and then pull the trigger. “Click”.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm. 8:3-4)

I always knew I would have a better life, even at such a young age. The stars were not my God, but a representation of the hope I would have in my God knowing someday that better life would be attained.

Source: http://whatwillmatter.com/2012/01/worth-seeing-beautiful-images-to-remind-you-to-spend-more-time-looking-at-the-stars-above-and-within/
It is said that stars represent high hopes and great ideals. I like this concept!

There was a time when my hopes seemed so high. To live in a decent neighborhood, to have a nice home and a car that runs without having to push start it every day.

After all this came to pass, I realized just how not so high these hopes were. Again, I wanted better. I wanted to be better. To be a friend among friends, a worker among workers. To be a better parent to my children. To have something to offer others. To be of service to all of God’s creation.

My hopes and ideals are not too lofty, but they are bigger than myself. I cannot achieve them on my own. That is where a good support group, fellowship or whatever you want to call it comes in. The good news is that there are people who have lived this before and are more than happy to share with each other how they did it!

I have heard this song several times this week. I used to think it was a corny love song. Now as I hear the chorus “Waiting”. I realized this star could represent anything we are waiting on. A life partner, a job/career move, a home, retirement (gulp), the birth of a child, and for some of us just a better way of life (whatever that means).

Keep in mind that waiting, does not mean being slothful  until said “star” arrives. We must work for it. If it just happened, how much would we appreciate it? Just like labor pains; though they are difficult to experience, how easily are they forgotten when that newborn baby is placed in our arms?

I understand labor and working while waiting. Sometimes, it seemed that a bad situation was never going to end. Or more concerning, potentially get worse…and sometimes it did.

Source: http://www.bhmpics.com/shooting_star-wallpapers.html
Source: http://www.bhmpics.com/shooting_star-wallpapers.html

It is said that a shooting star represents a fleeting moment. “This too shall pass”. Thank you God for that one. If I didn’t have this cliché in the back of my head (and also tattooed on my shoulder), I would have lost my mind several years ago.

Are you waiting on a star to fall? Are you willing to work while you are waiting, to overcome the obstacles? Can you accept each circumstance along the way knowing “This too shall pass”? Will you share your experience and empower others along the way?

Stay Blissful My Friends – E