If one of your friends has told you about something that has happened to them that isn’t okay, you might feel all kinds of things. You might feel like you don’t know how to react; you might feel shocked, upset, angry, or confused; and you might be worried that you don’t know how to support them properly.
You don’t have to be an expert – all you need is to care enough about your friend to want to help them.
What should I say?
It can be really difficult for people to say to someone else what happened to them. You could let them know that they are brave for telling you.
People who have experienced things that weren’t okay might try to blame themselves for what happened. You should reassure them that what happened to them wasn’t their fault. It’s best not to ask things that might make them feel they were in some way to blame or that they could have avoided what happened, like why they were with the person who harmed them, why they shared a photo or whether they were drinking. No one asks to be harmed and it can reassure your friend to know that you understand this.
If it feels OK for you, let them know that you are there for them and that they can talk to you.
What should I do?
It’s a good idea to encourage your friend to tell an adult they trust. This could be someone like a parent or carer, grandparent, neighbour, a friend’s parent, teacher, youth worker, or perhaps a religious leader or doctor. It’s important that they choose who they feel safe to talk to. If they don’t feel brave enough to talk about it, you could ask if they might feel more comfortable writing it down and giving it to them instead.
Let them know about services like Childline, Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline and Rape Crisis Scotland (if they’re over 13) who can support them.
They can get in touch with Rape Crisis Scotland by calling them on 08088 01 03 02 (which is open every day 6pm – midnight) or emailing them via firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also text 07537 410 027. If English isn’t their language, or they use British Sign Language, an interpreter can be arranged for them.
The Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline can be contacted 24 hours a day on 0800 027 1234, they can also be contacted via email or through their web chat service.
If you feel up to it and are able to, you could go along with them when they tell a trusted adult, sit next to them when they call a support line, or go with them to the GP or a police station if they want to report it.
Can I get support?
It can feel quite distressing to find out something has happened to your friend. It’s important that you get support too.
You can chat to the team at Childline (any age up to 18), or take a look at our support page for a range of other organisations you can talk to on specific topics.