Standing With Survivors: What It Means to Me

It was May 7th, 2017. I was sitting in the car with my boyfriend, driving back to school from lunch. My phone buzzed, it was from my best friend.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so disconnected lately..I got raped.”

Everything went black.

The only thought that ran through my mind was “These kinds of things don’t happen to girls like us. These kinds of things shouldn’t happen to girls like us. Wait, no - these kinds of things shouldn’t happen to anyone.”

The amount of hurt I felt in that moment is indescribable. My best friend got..raped? What do I do? How do I help her? How can I be there for her? Sexual assault is a topic that doesn’t feel real to many of us, until it happens to us.

The next time I saw her, she had changed so much. I had seen the light pour out of her, and the hurt file in. She was always on edge, constantly looking over her shoulder, and avoiding any man who came near her that could remind her of him in any way. This wasn’t the happy girl I knew, the one who always picked me up when I was down - the one who made me into the person I am. She was always so kind, so careful, and such a ray of light in everyone’s lives. I wanted to help her so badly, but how do you help someone who’s been through something so unimaginable? How do you help someone when you cannot even come close to paralleling the pain that they have felt? Sometimes it feels like you can’t, and no matter how hard you try there is no way to fix what seems to have broken.

But listen to me - you CAN.

Remind them that you love them. Remind them that they are so much more than what has happened to them. Remind them that they CAN overcome this, and any other adversity that they face. Remind them that it’s not their fault - it’s NEVER their fault. Remind them that they are never alone. Stand by them. Do not tell their story for them, but support them in telling it when they choose to. Do not try to sympathize with them, but rather empathize. Understand that what they have been through is horrible, but that they are still the person that you knew before it happened. They are still whole, and complete, and everything that they were before.

Life is filled with challenges. Sometimes it feels like the universe is out to get you, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. But let me tell you one thing - having someone stand by your side while you face a hardship, supporting you each step of the way, makes a world of a difference.

I will never be able to erase what she has been through. But I will support her and love her and most of all, I will BELIEVE in her.