Sexual harassment is when a man or woman makes any unwanted sexual advances on another. It may be physical or verbal and can occur in any setting. To some in Pakistan, being sexually harassed may come off as a ‘not a big deal’, but to the ones that have experienced it, it is anything but that.
A friend of mine recently talked to me about how she was sexually harassed by someone, and it continued on for a while.
It tore her apart when she talked to me about it, and she said I was the only person she had told. My friend hadn’t told me at the time she had been violated, rather a year after. I felt as though it was my fault that she wasn’t comfortable enough to share her experience with me.
Maybe I gave off certain signals that forced her to keep quiet and live with this burden every day. I asked her what I could have done better, and can do next time. This is what I gathered from our conversation.
Make them feel comfortable
We can’t detect sexual harassment, but we can have conversations with our friends that enable them to feel secure, relaxed and not judged. This might allow them to open up.
When they do trust us enough to share their horrific experience, do not overreact. If they are calm or crying just hug them and listen. Don’t get angry, it wasn’t their fault. Let them know you are there for them.
Do not force them to come forward
Don’t force them to tell their family or an authority. If they wanted to, you wouldn’t be the one listening to their story. It’s always a bad idea to force a victim to open up to someone else right at the moment.
Slowly, build up their confidence
Take time and boost their confidence and courage to be able to open up to someone that can make a difference. Even if it’s too late to tell anyone, make sure they know to not be ashamed of this incident.
Offer support in any way possible
If they don’t want to share their story yet, support them, if they do decide to talk to someone else, ask them if they want you to be there or not. Always be there for them. You never know when that horrific moment may flash through their mind and make them upset.
Let them know their voice matters
They matter and their well being matters. Whatever they have to say is important, and no one else can tell them otherwise.
Everything takes time, and with time they will decide what is best for them. Do not get frustrated, always be available to lend an ear or a shoulder. You just need to be there for them every step of the way.
Now that I know better, I intend on following these steps to ensure I’m a friend in need. Do you know of more ways to help someone get through such a tough time? Share with us in the comments.
Cover image via bustle.com