How to Comfort a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Molested

Do you have a friend who has confided to you that he or she has been sexually molested? Are you wondering "What in the world am I going to say to him/her?" While you may never face this situation with ease, rest assured... you're not alone!

Here are some things you can do to be a friend when your friend is at his/her most confused and hurt.


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    Get your friend immediate medical attention if the abuse has just occurred. Call the emergency room and let them know what's happened and that you're on your way. Ask that someone be there to talk with you when you arrive, perhaps someone specially trained in this area. Make sure to do the following in order to preserve any evidence of the abuse:
    • Don't let your friend shower, bathe, douche, eat, drink, wash his/her hands, or brush his/her teeth until after s/he's had a medical examination.[1]
    • Have your friend save all of the clothing worn at the time of the abuse. If s/he needs to change, place each item of clothing in a separate paper bag (not plastic bags).[1]
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    Don't question whether it was molestation. Take your friend's word for it that the advances were unwelcome. No matter how subtle the contact was, if it made your friend feel uncomfortable, the situation needs to be corrected somehow. Even if you suspect the friend is exaggerating in order to get attention, don't ever assume this is the case. It's not your job to determine whether someone's claims are true; leave that to a professional, or to a court of law. As a friend, give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
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    Be there for your friend. Let him or her vent to you without being critical or blaming your friend for the situation. Learn How to Be a Good Listener.
    • Example: It's best not to comment on provocative attire, which, in your opinion may have "been asking for it" - saying anything like, "So from now on, you're going to wear really conservative clothes, so as not to give off any inviting vibes, right?" will only make matters worse. Even if you believe it was unwise, wearing a sexy outfit is not an invitation to be molested or worse.
    • It is also very useful to summarize what the speaker is saying and restate it in your own words. This is a form of reassuring the speaker that you have truly been listening to what he or she is saying. It also provides the speaker with an opportunity to correct any mistaken assumptions or misconceptions that may have arisen during the course of the conversation. This is an especially good technique to try when you find yourself getting frustrated or restless in your listening.
    • Use the phrase "I can only imagine how you are feeling." instead of "I know how you feel." It can only be hoped that you will NEVER know how your friend feels... and saying that you do may prevent sharing when venting/release is most needed.
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    Know that many victims feel guilt or shame. There is a huge component of guilt involved in most sexual molestation victims' mentality. Although your friend is not to blame, in any way, s/he may feel as if s/he contributed to the problem, or worse, may blame him or herself for feelings of sexual arousal while the molestation occurred. Reassure your friend that the human body is hard-wired to respond to sexual touching by feeling arousal, whether or not that touching was appropriate or welcome. Some victims may have even experienced orgasm during molestation, and this adds to feelings of shame and dirtiness, and to a feeling of being complicit in their own violation. There are some very complex "complicity" feelings that can occur when the victim knows or admits that s/he liked the "special" attention early on - it may have made him/her feel more grown up or special to someone whom s/he admired greatly. But the perpetrator is a predator, no matter how much the victim may have liked him or her to start out. When a predator is relentless in his/her "attentions", it is normal for the victim to experience these feelings, and you should assure your friend that s/he did not ask for this to happen, and that s/he is not at fault.
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    Ensure your friend's safety. If your friend is still living with or in close contact with the perpetrator, you may need to help them find a safe place to live. Most municipalities have "safe houses" for victims of abuse. Police and social workers will be able to assist with this.
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    Report the perpetrator to the authorities. If your friend has told no one else and the abuse is active, report it to a responsible adult such as a teacher, medical personnel, police or even emergency services such as 9-1-1 or firemen. These individuals are, in many areas, required by law to report child abuse to Department of Health and Human Services (or its equivalent) so that your friend can get the help s/he needs. Do not hide the offense for "privacy" or "to protect your friend". If your friend is to heal, s/he is going to need help, and you can only get help if you tell someone. Besides, sexual predators depend on the silence of all victims and their supporters, so be sure that you are vocal, immediately.
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    Avoid the predator in the future. If the offender isn't in jail or completely gone from your friend's life, try to help him or her to avoid that person. This can be complicated if the offender lives in the same house, but there may be some ways to help your friend stay away.
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    Keep physical comfort completely platonic. Even if your friend is a girlfriend/boyfriend, do not try to cheer her/him up through physical means such as hugging or kissing. This type of physical contact is probably the last thing needed right now, and any idea you might have of using "sexual healing" would be completely inappropriate.
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    Be strong and show your game face. Showing how hurt and heartbroken you are for your friend in a long, protracted way, may make your friend feel more guilty. When your friend tells you about it, don't be afraid to say how awful it is, how bad you feel, and how angry it makes you, but be as calm as you can, and remember that this is about your friend - not you.
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    Don't dwell on the issue obsessively. Once you've talked it out together, if your friend seems to be recycling the same information, try to distract him or her with a fun activity, such as a game. Don't cut your friend short - if s/he needs to continue to vent, allow it until you feel it is no longer serving the purpose (which is to allow the poison to drain, not to continue to fester). Then find something to do which will take your friend out of that frame of mind, even if only for a little while. Do understand that as your friend processes the emotions of the situation, different truths may occur to him or her, and s/he will need to talk it out many times in different ways; still, you should sense a point where s/he runs out of steam having gotten it out of his/her system for the time being, rather than obsessively rehashing. As you move on to activities, you may notice that certain words or phrases will trigger another bout of venting after a period of calm and/or fun. Try to understand this need, and support your friend by listening actively and sympathetically, drawing out the new epiphanies as best you can, to help him or her understand everything s/he can about it.
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    Watch your friend for suicidal tendencies. If s/he expresses a wish to kill or harm him or herself, seek help as soon as possible. Stay with him/her until help arrives if you possibly can.
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    Tell your friend you love him/her. It helps more than you may realize. Reassure him/her that you are there if needed.
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    Encourage your friend to seek therapy. The guilt, shame, anger, and self-loathing which commonly result from incidents of this type often require the professional assistance of a licensed psychologist, counselor, or social worker for their successful resolution. In the U.S., you can find a properly-qualified therapist by calling your State psychological, counseling, or social work association and asking for the names of members close where your friend lives who specialize in working with victims of sexual abuse.


  • While it may help your friend to pour out everything about the incident(s), do not press him or her to say any more than s/he wants to. You can probe gently, but don't press hard for more. If s/he still has problems and you have proved yourself trustworthy, s/he will probably pour out more at a later time.
  • Avoid asking your friend details of what exactly happened. Let her/him tell you what s/he is comfortable with saying. Don't be an interrogator.
  • Avoid saying, "I know how you feel," as it will stifle your friends expressing his/her feelings. Use phrases such as, "I can only imagine how you feel," instead.
  • Remember: Everyone who is sexually molested responds to it differently.
  • Don't let the information that your friend is revealing get you down. It is impossible to cheer someone up when you are in just as bad a mood as they are. Don't act flippant, though.
  • If two teens are involved, and their age difference is more than two years, the abuser is automatically committing "statutory rape" even if the younger person didn't mind or was complicit, in many jurisdictions in the US.
  • Don't make promises you can't keep. Your friend may swear you to secrecy before s/he tells you what happened. If the offender is an adult and your friend is a minor, you must report the offender to the authorities. If you don't, the chance that s/he will repeat the offense against your friend or another child is staggeringly high. Tell your friend that you won't tell other friends or peers, but you do want to talk to the authorities.
  • Depending on the state you live in, if one participant is an adult and the other is under the age of 18, the adult is automatically committing "statutory rape". There is no such thing as "consensual sexual activity" between an adult and a minor in the US. However, laws, and the age of consent in particular vary greatly from state to state.
  • If your friend was molested by another friend who is emotionally or mentally troubled, your friend may feel that the offender still needs him/her as a friend. Guilt at "abandoning" this person, despite what s/he has done, may make your friend feel a compulsion to stay in that relationship. Do not let your friend continue the relationship with the offender. It is a bad idea on many levels. Many molesters strike again if they see an opportunity, even if they have been caught.
  • Make sure to always talk everything trough with the victim before reporting things or telling others. Always check if it's alright with the victim and if not (if the victim is too scared) tell the victim anyway, what you're about to do.
  • Give them the chance to tell them themselves and give them the control over this situation.


  • Not everyone is cut out for this kind of thing. If you feel uncomfortable, the person you are trying to help will sense it. Chances are, this will make your friend feel like s/he is "burdening" you. Do your best to get help rather than risk making things worse.
  • Often perpetrators will control the person they are abusing with threats. It is normal for someone who has been molested to be very afraid of retaliation against him/herself or worse, against his/her family or friends. This is why it is so very important to report this to police. In some cases, it may be best for the person being abused to stay in a shelter or with someone to mind them, at least for a while.

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