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Helping a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Abused
Students will identify guidelines for helping a friend who has been sexually abused.
Materials:Handout: "A Friend's Dilemma"
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Procedure:1. Introduce the activity.
Begin by stating some basic facts about sexual abuse. State that sexual abuse is more common than many people realize. Current studies show that approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually abused. Many times, sexual abuse doesn't just happen once, but continues because the victim doesn't know how to get help or is too scared to get help.
In order for the victim to get help, he or she needs to tell someone about what is happening. One person they might choose to tell is a friend.
2. Review the objective and give overview of the activity.
3. Distribute hand out for individual or group work.
Ask students to read "A Friend's Dilemma" and write down ways they might help this friend. Allow 8-10 minutes. This step may also be facilitated by having small groups discuss different ways to help the friend.
4. Reconvene the class and discuss.
Ask a few students to share one or two ways they might help Chris. Next, ask students to help you make a list of guidelines for helping a friend. Write guidelines on the board or flip chart paper. Make sure to include the following:
- Try not to interrupt or give advice unless asked for it. Your friend may just need someone who will listen and not judge.
- Listen carefully to what he/she is saying.
- Don't laugh. Sometimes when we listen to something that is uncomfortable or embarrassing, we laugh. Try to be conscious of the fact that this is a common reaction.
- Believe your friend. Do not doubt or question whether your friend is telling the truth. It's common for someone who has been abused to be confused about details, but this doesn't mean he/she is lying.
- Maintain confidentiality.
- Help your friend tell an appropriate resource person such as Child Protective Services, police or sheriff, school nurse, counselor, social worker, parent, etc.
- Support your friend for talking about his/her experience. Understand that talking about sexual abuse is not easy and takes courage.
- Let your friend know that you care about him/her and that you want to help.
- Let your friend know that the assault was not his/her fault. Victims of sexual abuse are often manipulated, threatened or tricked into feeling guilty. They often feel as if the abuse were their fault. Sexual abuse of a child is NEVER the child's fault.
Tell students that they have made a good list of ways to help a friend who has been sexually abused. The most important things to do for him or her are to listen, believe, help relieve his/her guilt, and encourage him/her to tell a trusted adult.
Note: Students may have questions about what happens when someone reports a sexual assault. It is important that you address their questions and concerns. If you have not covered the information earlier in your curriculum, you may want to contact your local Child Protective Services or rape crisis center for information about what happens to the victim and offender after an assault has been reported.
Adapted from: A Teaching Guide to Preventing Adolescent Sexual Abuse, ETR Network Publications, 1988