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How to Help a Friend

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This page is to be used for information purposes only. If you or a friend is in crisis, please visit https://equity.stanford.edu/.

Sexual Violence

Understand the Situation

Before talking to your friend about their traumatic experience, it is important to understand the sensitive situation. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted under any circumstances, and someone who has experienced it has been violated and needs your support, but any decision to take action that they make is ultimately theirs. As their friend, it is important to provide a safe, accepting space for them. You can offer to help with decision-making, but do not make decisions for them.

Listen

As a friend, this is one of your most important roles. You may not feel equipped to offer advice, but you are able to listen, no matter what your experience with or knowledge of sexual assault may be. Listen patiently, and let your friend tell their story at their own pace. You can ask questions, but be careful not to ask for too many details if your friend seems hesitant. Offer to set aside a time to talk together in a private comfortable place. Recognize that this may be the first time your friend has recounted their sexual assault experience, and make sure that you are doing what you can to make them feel safe, and not judged.

Taking Action

After the conversation, take time to discuss what steps your friend may want to take next. Offer to help them get professional help, but only if they want it. Discuss with them other resources that they can access on campus. If they would like to seek medical care, counseling, or any other services, offer to accompany them if they wish. Again, try to refrain from being critical or judgmental, and be open to whatever action your friend wants to take.

Take Care of Yourself

Remember to take care of yourself, too. If someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, it is easy to feel upset or overwhelmed. Even though your friend is the one who has undergone the traumatic experience, it is perfectly understandable for you to seek professional help or support. Talking to a counselor may also help you have a better conversation with your friend.

Resources

Disordered Eating

Understand the Situation

Eating disorders include extreme attitudes, and behaviors about weight, self-image and food issues. They are often a dangerous response to other stresses in someone's life and can possibly have serious medical consequences.

Though eating disorders can come in many forms, some of the most common include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Anorexia is characterized by restricting food intake by intentional self-starvation. Bulimics engage in a cycle of bingeing and purging, where they eat large amounts of food in a short period of time, and later rid themselves of the food through vomiting, laxative usage, or excessive exercising. Binge-eating involves periods of uncontrolled eating to the point of feeling uncomfortable. Such periods are often followed by feelings of shame or self-hatred.

Signs to Look Out For

Most people struggle with eating disorders privately, but here is a partial a list of some general warning signs:

  • Intense preoccupation with losing weight
  • A distorted body image
  • Paying constant attention to food and/or dieting
  • Exercising compulsively for prolonged periods
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Denial of being too thin
  • Abusing laxatives and/or diet pills

Having a Conversation

If you are worried about your friend, suggest that the two of you meet someplace private to discuss your concerns openly in a caring, supportive way. If you are nervous, it may help to rehearse what you want to say beforehand. Be honest with your friend, and share your memories of some specific examples of when you were concerned about their eating or exercise behaviors. Avoid being accusatory, or blaming your friend for their actions. If your friend is open to seeking professional help, offer to go with them to find medical care or counseling or just research the issue more online. Remember that this is ultimately their decision.

Know Your Limits

It is possible that your friend will deny having any problem or may even be defensive, and it is your role as a friend to listen and remain supportive. Remind yourself that by approaching them and voicing your concerns, you have already made progress. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by a friend's situation, and if you are stressed, it might be useful to seek counseling or professional support yourself. Be careful not overlook your own well being for the sake of your friend.